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Fried Green Tomatoes

On tonight’s menu was a featured item from my childhood and summers in the South: Fried Green Tomatoes. One of my favorite things and another menu item that says (early) summer to me!

I cannot remember when I developed my love of fried green tomatoes… in my head I wonder if it is pre or post 1991, which is when the movie came out. The movie was one of my favorites growing up – I thought it had a great story (and I thought it was so sad, too!). I just loved it and watched it countless times growing up. One summer when I was in the south I remember asking my parents about fried green tomatoes. I loved tomatoes, especially those that were grown in my grandmother’s garden. When I was little I ate tomato sandwiches – the only thing between two slices of bread were slices of tomato and just a sprinkle of salt. Ahh tomato sandwiches! Delicious!

When the sous chef got home from work, we went for a walk on this beautiful, just warm enough evening in July. I had really wanted to start cooking right away – but how could I pass such a lovely night?? Most summers we are sweltering towards the end of July and I find myself needing to survive in the air conditioning. Every opportunity for beautiful evenings, I have to get out while I can. The other great aspect about summer is that when the sous chef gets home after 7 o’clock, it is still light enough to go out for a nice walk. Once the end of October rolls around, we won’t be so lucky.

Once we got home, I started getting my tomatoes and dredging material set. For these fried green tomatoes I set up a plate with plain flour, then a bowl of milk and a beaten egg, and then a second bowl of flour mixed with cornmeal and a little salt and pepper:

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Once this was set, I sliced up my pretty green tomatoes:

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I heated up the oil in our pan, and once it was hot I put one slice into the pan. It sizzled nicely so I knew that the oil was hot enough. The cooked up so nicely!

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I had a plate with a paper towel ready for the cooked tomatoes. We ate them as soon as they were cool enough to eat… personally, I only want to eat hot fried green tomatoes – but not hot enough to burn my mouth! These tomatoes were delicious. We added a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper on top, and nothing else. I just LOVE how the taste and texture of the cornmeal works with the tomato and somehow brings a sense of ripeness and developed flavor to the tomato.

The finished product – and they did not last long in our house tonight!

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While I was making the fried green tomatoes, Sous Chef was prepping and cooking chicken breast which was seasoned with cilantro and lime – the healthy part of our dinner tonight!

Wrapping up to get back to The Goldfinch. Have a great night blog readers!

Panzanella Salad

Everyone has a “Must Make” during the summer. For me, one of the must haves is Panzanella Salad. It’s just one of those things that is phenomenal and one of my favorite dishes during the summer. When it is summer, so many of the ingredients can be fresh – and that is so important because freshness helps the flavors just pop in your mouth!

Yesterday I had a cookout to attend, and I knew I wanted to bring something even though I was told everything was taken care of. At first I thought I would bring a dessert, but instead I decided on the panzanella salad, because you can’t have too many side dishes (at least that is my thought process!). I went to Wegman’s to get more tomatoes, another ball of fresh mozzarella and another french baguette because my supply of these crucial ingredients was dwindling.

I got home with less than an hour to prep my dish! Thankfully the amazing sous chef was ready to spring into duty! I had him toast my french bread baguette, since it wasn’t a day old or anywhere close to stale…. for this recipe, it’s best for the bread to be a little stale because the balsamic and olive oil will absorb nicely that way.

I was chopping tomatoes and cucumbers furiously (but safely) and as I was doing so, I keep thinking – “I need to take photos! I am the worst food blogger!” but I did not stop chopping, and never ended grabbing my camera. I’m sorry!

The key ingredients to Panzanella Salad:

TOMATOES – I usually use cherry tomatoes. Halved or quartered

Fresh mozzarella cheese (chopped into squares about the same size as tomatoes)

BASIL (I used the basil straight from my garden)

Cucumbers (seeded and chopped, I keep the skin on)

Red onions (but I omitted them knowing that some of the people at the cookout can’t do raw onion. I thought about grilling the onions and I think it would be fabulous – but I decided to leave them out)

A little salt and pepper

GOOD balsamic vinegar :)

Olive Oil

A day old french baguette, chopped up into cubes

1 can of cannellini beans

I literally just mix all of the ingredients together, but sometimes I will keep the french bread out if I want to eat the salad for a couple of days.

I had a serving of the panzanella salad for lunch today:

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When I got home I was hungry and I knew I had a couple of hours until dinner – so I discovered a new way to eat some of the salad (not the bread!):

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More salad on a pita chip! It was tasty.

In other news, I am finally reading The Goldfinch. It is sad, but wonderful – a real page turner. I have been reading more and blogging less. But still cooking and eating healthy food most of the time! One of the things we have discovered this summer is that the crockpot is a great tool when you do not want to turn on the oven and heat up the whole house. We have been making a lot of chicken breast in the crock pot, for a pulled chicken. I’ve been eating this chicken with a side of beans, vegetables and / or fruit for lunch.

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It has been great to have a go to lunch most of the time. Tonight we will be grilling some chicken breast in a lime & cilantro marinade (from Wegman’s) and… wait for it… fried green tomatoes. I will do my best to take photos of the tomatoes and will definitely report back. It is the first time I have made fried green tomatoes in years, so I am hoping I will be able to replicate my grandmother’s. Of course her green tomatoes come right out of the garden in her backyard – so she ahead of me already!

Stay tuned – I will report back tomorrow. All the best, blog readers!! Cook and be happy!

A Summer Soup

There are a few things I miss in the summer. Soup is one of the big ones!! As I think you know, I love soup. LOVE IT. All kinds of soup too. Vegetable soup, butternut squash soup, chicken soup, chili, and so on. I make at least one soup a week and usually I make a few different ones. (I also miss red wine! While you can still drink it during the summer, I don’t tend to.)

This past week I did a lot of perusing on the internet for new recipes that would get me excited about cooking and healthy eating again. I thought this was going to be a tall order to fill – thankfully I was surprised by how quickly I was able to get excited again! To me, this meant I had the timing just right – if I was able to find some recipes that got me excited, I was definitely ready to get back on track and enjoy it. There is nothing worse than forcing yourself into something when you’re not quite (or far from) ready for it.

One of the recipes I found was from the SkinnyTaste Blog (I would be lost without this blog – if you’re looking for recipes check it out.) The recipe was a new one from Gina, a Cream of Zucchini Soup. I was so excited to find a soup that was appropriate for the summer season! I immediately printed out the recipe (yes, I’m horrible because I still print out recipes from time to time. I like having paper in front of me instead of devices – what can I say!?)

Since Thursday was a half day at the office I thought it would be the perfect time to get to Wegman’s, pick up some zucchini and get this soup started for Thursday night’s dinner. I started by cutting a little over half of an onion (I think my onion was medium sized, not small because I love onion flavor!) and some garlic…

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I switched the recipe a little bit because people in my house are not really able to eat onions that are not sautéed for a while. I added a little olive oil into my pot and cooked the onions for a few minutes before adding the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients. Before I knew it I had a pot full of goodness:

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Then I had the (brilliant?) idea of adding some chili flakes to the mix:

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This definitely brought some heat into the soup – if you like spice and heat this is a great addition to the soup – if not, definitely leave it out! I brought the pot to a boil (this seemed to take a long time, probably because I was so excited for the end result). As we waited the sous chef and I snacked on an entire fresh tomato – it tasted so amazing. We also had some blue corn chips and spicy hummus.

Eventually the soup came to a boil, I turned down the heat and covered it for 20 minutes. Once the timer had gone off, I removed the soup from the heat. I put on a grill glove and started blending the soup with my immersion blender. I have a Calphalon immersion blender and it is wonderful. It has five speeds, a turbo setting and it always does a great job blending soups. A lot of times I use my Vitamix for blending but sometimes it’s great to just whip out the hand blender and keep everything in the pot! I was a little nervous about splashing myself since I was wearing summer clothing (a tank top – lots of skin to possibly be burned) so I wore a Webber grill glove for the first few minutes. Once I realized that the blender was doing such a great job (no splashing!!) I felt comfortable taking the glove off (it goes all the way to my elbow practically!)

Once I had most of the vegetables blended, I took a taste to see about adding some salt and pepper. I could really taste the chili flakes! There was a really nice underlying heat in the soup mixture. The chicken broth from Wegman’s is fairly low in sodium, so sometimes I will add a little salt (I am still all about minimizing additional salt and sodium in my dishes when at all possible!) I added a pinch of salt. I added some freshly ground pepper. We also added three heaping spoonfuls of Fage 0% greek yogurt to bring some creaminess to the soup. It cooled down the spice from the chili flakes just a little. It was a great balance!

I served up a small bowl to try the soup before I served it for dinner. I added a little of Wegman’s 2% Colby cheese and a dot or two of Trader Joe’s hot sauce. The end result was wonderful – the perfect summer soup!

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Cream of Zucchini Soup (Adapted from SkinnyTaste Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

3 Zucchini, large chop (leave the skin on!)

2/3 medium onion, large chop

4 cloves garlic, smashed, chopped

3 spoonfuls of 0% Greek yogurt

32 ounces of low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want the soup to be vegetarian)

Spices if desired (I loved adding the chili flakes, and I added about 1/2 a tablespoon)

Kosher salt, pepper to taste (taste the soup first – depending on the chicken broth you use, your soup could already have enough sodium for your taste!)

Your favorite cheese for topping (freshly grated parmesan cheese is great! I had Wegman’s 2% Colby Jack on hand and that was a great addition, too)

Heat olive oil in your pot. Once oil is hot, add the chopped onion. Sauté for five minutes. Add chicken broth, chopped zucchini, garlic, and pepper flakes (optional). Bring soup to a boil. Once soup is boiling, turn down the heat to low and cover (soup should continue on a low simmer) for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove pot from heat. Carefully purée with your immersion blender until all the big chunks are gone. Add the yogurt, purée again until a smooth consistency is accomplished.

Serve with cheese if you’d like, a nice hot sauce is also a great option. I enjoyed mine with a nice piece of crusty French bread and a side of grilled chicken!

The last few days have been busy – but I’m happy to say I have stayed on top of my healthy eating effort! While I have been getting back into the swing of things I have put maintaining healthy eating above all else – including a budget. Not that I’m going to spend an exorbitant amount of money – but if it is between getting fast food or a healthy prepared meal from Whole Foods (and spending a few extra dollars) I am voting for Whole Foods every time.

On Tuesday night I went for a run (and it was h-o-t!) and after I swung by the neighborhood (smaller) Whole Foods. I picked up three of my favorite things – balsamic chicken breast, firecracker slaw and couscous along with some other fruits, veggies and a bag of WF reduced fat and sodium popped popcorn. I felt set for the next couple of days!

Dinner was delicious:

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The lean protein from the chicken really hit the spot, and because I was eating dinner so late (I waited until later than normal so I could run outside that night instead of on the treadmill) I did not need a dessert or another snack after dinner. Winning! The firecracker slaw is absolutely one of my favorite summer items from the Whole Foods prepared food bar – there is NO MAYO in this slaw (yuck!) and it is so fresh and crunch – and filling and full of vitamins.

For breakfast on Wednesday I toasted an light whole wheat english muffin, melted a light babybel cheese on top and cut up a hard boiled egg. I added a couple of drops of hot sauce, too.

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Breakfast was great and it got me through until lunch time – and that is always a benefit in my book. Sometimes when I have a granola bar or something small or processed I am hungry a couple of hours after.

Another great great breakfast from earlier in the week was a low carb wrap, banana slices and Justin’s peanut butter. It was really filling and satisfying – yet another morning I got through until lunch without having to snack at my desk:

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Lunch this week was mostly turkey wraps with vegetables and fruit on the side:

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In the afternoons I was still getting a little hungry, so every day I packed about two cups of light popcorn and snacked on that in the afternoon when I felt hungry. On Wednesday I was still hungry after the popcorn, so I nibbled on a small piece of turkey jerky!! Even just a little bit got me over the hunger hump – I think this piece had about six grams of protein and not many calories – my kind of snack!

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Once I got home from work / exercise every night I would have a handful (or two) of Pop Chips because I was starving and needed to take a shower before preparing dinner. Sometimes I would also snack on a few cherry tomatoes before my shower! Dinners this week were chicken every night with vegetables and a carb. Well balanced. I snacked on a handful of yogurt covered raisins during the nights, too as I was reading. But mostly the dinners kept me full and I did not go back into the kitchen looking for more food – it was quite a turn around.

I even ate off the same plate most of the week, so the pictures look the same!

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Thursday was a half day at work, so I didn’t feel like making my hard boiled egg breakfast. I got through the morning on a Chobani 100 (blueberry). Once I left work I went right to the grocery store to get some food for the weekend (I loaded up on fresh produce and it was so fun!) Once I got home I made a version of an egg sandwich for lunch and it was so tasty:

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I also had a peach:

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Overall I think this week was a true victory for me. I ate really well (less pizza and cake – more vegetables and lean protein!) and felt SO much better. As I told myself at the beginning of the week, there is really no excuse to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer. Everything is fresh, local and tastes amazing!! I am taking full advantage of it while it lasts!

Happy Summer everyone – stay cool and safe over the holiday weekend!

Recommitted

Hi Blog Readers:
So, it has been a while. I don’t have much to report as to why I have been away from the blog – the same old excuses. Life is busy, work is busy, there is not enough time in the day to do everything. But sadly, cooking was getting boring for me. I was focusing on other things, like reading and exercise which is always a good thing – but I definitely missed the blog…. After a while the time has gotten away from you and I was wondering how to pick things back up.

Slowly I noticed that cooking was becoming more fun again. I didn’t necessarily have anything overly exciting to write about – but I figured soon enough I would.

On Sunday night, I decided that MONDAY (June 30 to be precise) would be the day I recommitted myself to healthy living and healthy eating. Really, in the summer there is hardly an excuse for NOT eating healthy! There is fresh fruit and vegetables almost everywhere. You can fire up a grill and cook some lean protein so it is nice and tasty. I just had to make it fun and sort of exciting, I figured. There is certainly no way around it – to eat healthy all the time, you have to MAKE TIME to do it. It takes a lot of commitment and work. It’s hard to plan everything and make sure that you always have fresh and healthy food at home. It is easy to give into potato chips! (I have done that lately.)

So, I feel like I have recommitted to my original cause – and I definitely have some weight to lose. I have some exercise to do, on a regular basis and some healthy food to eat. I hope you’ll join me, read along and send me your thoughts on what you do to be healthy and happy!

I started by taking photos of my food yesterday – more for a document for myself. The day started by sleeping in later than I normally get to on a Monday morning (I’m getting over the dreaded summer cold, and decided to go into work later than normal. Getting extra sleep is one of the sure fire ways I know to get over a cold!)

Because I was at home later that usual, I decided to enjoy breakfast at home:

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Special K protein cereal, fresh blueberries and 1% organic milk. A couple of months ago I discovered that i had an iron deficiency and was told that Special K fortifies their cereal with iron. I started having it in the house and using it as a snack during the day. This was a rather tasty, low cal and high protein stat to my day. The blueberries were amazing!

At 11 o’clock I was ready for my morning snack – a perfectly ripe nectarine.

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The nectarine got me through until a respectable lunch time, 12:30 when I got the bulk of my food out. Lunch was a low carb wrap with turkey, spinach and mustard. Hummus with cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks, and a little piece of dark chocolate.

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I had two afternoon snacks. A yoplait greek yogurt (I do not like yoplait light greek yogurt because it has artificial flavors and sweeteners in it, but it was in the fridge, and I was not going to waste food… so, the yogurt found it’s way into my lunch bag!)

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The second afternoon snack I had later, and was able to nibble on it for a while – about two cups of air popped popcorn. A perfect afternoon snack – and I knew myself, and knew i would be craving something salty and instead of heading down to the snack machine for chips or Chez its, I thought ahead and packed the popcorn. (But I forgot to take a photo!)

When I got home from work around 6 o’clock, I started planning food for the next day. I made my lunch, I hard boiled eggs for the next few days of breakfast and started thinking about dinner. I had a Laughing Cow light cheese and a few Stacy Pita Crisps. I also took an evening walk before dinner, which was about a mile and a half. Not a very long walk, but I was really ready for dinner!

Dinner came together well – chicken on the grill pan, steamed zucchini and couscous. I thought it was well balanced and it was SO tasty.

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A little while after dinner, while I was watching an episode of The Americans, I had a Skinny Cow ice cream bar (100 calories).  

I thought my first day back was a success! I managed to maintain a high protein, low fat diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Now I need to sign off so that I can go out and take a walk and continue to plan a few more healthy meals for the week! Stay tuned :)

Hi there blog readers! Last night I spent a good part of my free time in the kitchen making homemade vegetable and bean burgers for dinner. My friends and I have been discussing the side effects of eating processed soy and the possible negative effects of your health by eating those so easy to prep “veggie” burgers that are filled with processed soy.

Instead of eating a processed veggie burger for dinner last night, I decided to make my own. It involves some time, ingredients, shredding, chopping and food processing! But it is all a lot of fun and the end result is delicious and so fresh. Totally worth the extra time and effort!

Here is the recipe I came up with last night on the fly:

1 cup of roughly chopped onion

4 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced.

1/3 C of rolled oats

2 cans of beans, rinsed and some bean liquid reserved (I used a can of low sodium cannelloni beans and low sodium black beans)

1/3 C of chopped cilantro

Chili powder, freshly ground pepper, a small pinch of salt, a couple of dashes of hot sauce

3 shredded carrots

I chopped the onion and sautéed the onion in a little bit of olive oil. You do not have to cook the onion – but the BF has a hard time consuming raw onion, so I cook them whenever I can before putting them into a recipe.

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The carrots looked pretty:

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Soon enough the rest of the ingredients were in the food processor along with the chopped onions (which steamed things up just a bit!):

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I started pulsing the mixture together to see how it was going to come together. I added some reserved bean liquid and a little water (by the tablespoon) and then took some of the mixture in my hand to see how if it would form a patty. Accidentally I made it a little too wet, so I added just a little more rolled oats.

I took out some parchment paper on to the counter and started forming the patties. They were coming together nicely!

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I loved the consistency of these burgers. I did not want all of the ingredients to be completely blended, and I loved that we could still see beans in the mixture. When I made the patties, I put them on a large plate, placed a piece of plastic wrap over them and put the burgers into the fridge to firm up a little bit.

A half hour later I turned on our stove and put a little olive oil in a non stick pan. Once the oil was hot, I added the first burger. I cooked each side for several minutes. The burgers really browned up nicely!! I was so happy with the result:

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The final product looked just like a hamburger! I had all the fixings to make the burger official. Whole wheat sandwich thins, arugula, red onions, tomato slices, hummus and spicy mustard. I could have eaten two burgers for sure!

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(But I’m glad I didn’t.) These burgers received rave reviews. I definitely recommend that you take the time to make these from scratch! This recipe made about nine burgers. We put six in the freezer and I made one for lunch.

Happy eating everyone – stay tuned, I’ll be back soon with more non processed foods that you should definitely make at home! :)

Eats and Runs

Happy Spring, everyone. I wonder if Spring is going to stick around for a couple of weeks this time…. we had a taste of spring last weekend and then we had snow and ice on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. My car was covered in ice on Wednesday morning. It made getting to work a challenge. Who would expect snow and ice in the middle of April? Sigh.

This week was a healthy eating week – but I wasn’t able to exercise as much outside as I had hoped to. (excuses, excuses) The week was also very busy and I did not get to the gym.

On Sunday I made a lot of salads, and packed two for the work week. One was Monday’s lunch and the other was Tuesday’s lunch:

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On Tuesday night I got out the new mandolin to make Zoodles (zucchini noodles). I really thought I would have extra zoodles for Wednesday’s lunch…

Zoodles were a little bit of a production. But it was so well worth it!

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Putting together the tool of danger after carefully washing it. I got the zucchinis ready to go and started making the cuts… before I knew it I had a lot of zoodles!

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I cooked the zoodles with some onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. We added a little bit of tomato sauce just enough to bring the mixture together and added some grilled chicken and a pinch of some grated cheese. This dinner is amazing!!

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I went back for more zoodles, and the bf went back for more of everything! Between the two of us we did not have any leftovers :) So for Wednesday night I made a veggie burger on a sandwich thin surrounded by a lot of fresh vegetables! It was also delicious.

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Today I went for a hilly outdoor run – it was great to feel the warmth of the sun, but it was also fairly breezy (that’s spring for you!) it felt great to get outside, but it also made me realize that I have a lot of work to do to get back into my awesome running shape. I’m happy that I started in earnest today. After my run I made sure to eat a healthy lunch – it is funny how hungry you can get after going for a run! I found some really healthy stuff in the kitchen and made a sort of odd but filling lunch for myself:

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Tuna, black bean salsa (from Wegman’s!) an apple and PB2 mixed into a peanut buttery spread. It was all great and I liked the mixture of fruit and protein.

Well, we are off to run errands. Stay tuned for updates on the half marathon training and healthy eats! See you soon!

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