Little, Warm, Golden Sunshines In The Midst Of Winter

Guilty pleasures.  Don’t we all have them?  One can’t eat healthy all the time!  If we didn’t have our guilty pleasures we’d all go crazy, I’m sure.  I have a few guilty pleasures.  Potato chips are one.  Tortilla chips with salsa are another.  Due to the extreme cold of the last few days I have been craving some warm, comforting, guilty-pleasure type of food but completely unmotivated to brave the subzero windchills.  I looked in my cabinet and it’s getting rather sparse but I did have some polenta.  It reminded me of an episode of Everyday Italian with one of my heroes, Giada De Laurentiis from back in the day where she made fried polenta.  Bingo!!

Polenta is Italian in origin and is ground cornmeal usually boiled with water or some kind of stock until thickened.  Kind of like grits.

Frying the polenta was super easy because in this case, I didn’t actually have to boil up the polenta.  I bought an organic pre-made/packaged brand which had all natural ingredients, so I didn’t mind the purchase.

I coated the bottom of a pan with olive oil and turned the heat onto medium-low.  I sliced the polenta into half-inch circles  and pan fried them for about 5 minutes or until I noticed they turned a nice golden brown on both sides.  When they were done I placed them out on paper towels to absorb some of the oil and let them cool.  In the meantime, I put a handful of spinach into the pan and let it wilt for a hot second.  Literally.  Gotta have a veggie!

So, let me tell you: fried polenta is a gift; a little, warm, golden, sunshiney gift.  It’s my new guilty pleasure that brings warmth to the dead of winter.  I had to stop myself from eating all of it.  They came out crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and best when still warm.  In my opinion, they didn’t need anything extra but they would be great with salsa or in a salad with spinach and goat cheese.  They’re definitely something to get creative with.  They’d be an awesome Superbowl snack too!  Yes, they’re fried so not the healthiest in the world, but it’s a nice treat on a cold day and I guarantee if you serve them at a party they will be polished off in a matter of seconds.

Fried polenta with spinach

fried polenta

Quick and Easy Vinaigrette

This past weekend I housed some honored guests, my parents.  I was very excited and it gave me the excuse to buy some extra special food and drinks for entertaining.  Of course, my mom cooked, which made it even better (doesn’t it always?).  Pretty much all the knowledge I have of cooking I learned from my mother…and the Food Network, but mostly my mother.  Thanks Mom! 🙂  Though, I did make a huge, healthy salad to complement our meal.  I used kale, spinach and mixed greens, half a red onion and grape tomatoes.  The vinaigrette was my favorite though.  It was basic and super simple to whip together.  It could even be used to pour over some salmon before cooking.

For the recipe, check out today’s post on the Strala Blog!

Hope you’re all staying healthy, eating healthy and staying warm!

vinaigrette

Saturday/Sunday Southwest Salad

Things have gotten a little serious around here lately with talk of the flu outbreak and obesity-related deaths passing hunger-related deaths.  I’ve decided to take a little breather and share a nice, lighthearted recipe with you all today. (By the way, did you read my interview on wellness and chicken soup to beat the flu season on Park Slope Stoop?)  I’ve decided it’s a good idea to post recipes on the weekend because that’s when most people have the time to relax and cook.  When I post a recipe earlier on Saturday you have the rest of the weekend to try it out.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  So later on, when you’re ready, pour yourself a nice glass of….something….and get cookin! 🙂

Today’s recipe is an easy, yummy Southwest Salad.  It makes about 3-4 servings.  First, let’s start with the dressing.  Here’s the recipe:

Avocado, cilantro, lime dressing

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 avocado
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 1/2 fresh lime
  4. 1/4 tsp chili powder
  5. some fresh chopped cilantro
  6. 1 tsp honey
  7. salt & pepper

In a large bowl pour in the olive oil, lime juice and honey.  Whisk together.  Scoop out the half avocado and with the back of a fork, mash the avocado until it forms a thick, smooth dressing coating the bottom of the bowl.  Stir in the chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Southwest Salad

Ingredients:

  1. kale
  2. mixed greens
  3. grape tomatoes
  4. celery
  5. 1/2 avocado
  6. tortilla chips
  7. 1/2 can black beans
  8. cheese (optional)
  9. 2 large chicken breasts (optional)

In a small pot, heat up the 1/2 can of black beans.  Wash and dry the kale and mixed greens and chop the celery.  Toss everything plus the black beans in the large bowl with the dressing.  Chop the avocado and add with the tomatoes and crumbled tortilla chips to the top.

Optional: For a non-vegan version, top with some cheese.

Optional: For a non-vegetarian version, rinse the two large chicken breasts and sprinkle with about 2 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp of cumin, a pinch of cayenne and salt and pepper.  Add to a heated pan, coated with olive oil and cook thoroughly on both sides.  Once cooked allow to cool and shred the chicken with two forks.  Add the chicken to the top of the salad.

With two large salad forks, dish up and enjoy.  This salad will be great for lunch or dinner.  Pair it with a margarita and you’ll have yourself a nice little party.  You’ll love it!  Happy weekend!  Cheers! 🙂

Southwestern Salad

Park Slope Stoop Interview!

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this but I love my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Park Slope is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of New York City and I am totally privileged to live here.  There’s a unique sense of community in Park Slope that you don’t get in other areas of NYC.  The beauty of Prospect Park (which is just like the famed Central Park in Manhattan but larger and fewer tourists) just up the street, all of the small privately owned restaurants and boutiques as well as the beautiful brownstone architecture makes Park Slope a wonderful place to live.  I have been living here for four years and I still think “I can’t believe I live here!” when I walk down the charming tree-lined streets.  Yes, trees do grow in Brooklyn.  Many, as a matter of fact.

Today, I consider myself even more fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community, being able to voice my passion to the local residents through Park Slope Stoop, a fantastic local website.  Recently I was interviewed by the editor, Arianna, on overall wellness and tips to get through this upcoming flu season (it’s supposed to be a doozy!).  Check out the post here!! 🙂  I’m so excited about this interview, I had to share it with you all right away!  It includes my recipe for homemade chicken soup, which is proven helpful in fighting off colds and flu, and other helpful tips for feeling good and energized.  I hope you enjoy!!

Love to you all and stay healthy!!

Prospect Park Panorama

On a winter’s day, just me and my shadow, alone in Prospect Park

Chocolate Chili Power Balls

As promised and also posted on the Strala Blog, Chocolate Chili Power Balls!!  Yaaaay!  Finally!!  Here’s the post:

These tasty treats are so good and magical, they may actually help you win the Power Ball Jackpot!  Okay, well, maybe not, but they still taste really good and a great afternoon pick-me-up.  They’re packed with good stuff and give an extra boost of energy to satisfy that 4 PM lull.

I made these during a study break a few weeks back.  My eyes were getting fuzzy and I was feeling rather drained of energy.  I went to see what kind of snacks were available and the inspiration came to me.  Basically, I pulled out the snacky-type food in my cabinet and threw it all together.  The great thing about this recipe is that it can vary in so many ways.  Mixing and matching flavors and ingredients is allowed!  Here are the ingredients I used in this particular recipe:

  1. 1/4 cup walnuts
  2. 1/4 cup pecans
  3. 1/4 cup almonds
  4. 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  5. 8 pitted dates
  6. 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (plus a little extra)
  7. 1 tsp of chili powder
  8. pinch of salt

Recipe:

In a food processor, grind up the nuts and seeds until they are fine and grainy.

Next, add the dates, cocoa and chili powder and salt.  Let the food processor ride until it binds together and looks like this (it will take about a minute or more):

Next, it’s time to get your hands a little dirty, but don’t worry, it’s yummy stuff!  Break off small clumps and roll into balls using the palms of your hands.  If you’d like, roll them around in some extra remaining cocoa powder to make the outer layer less sticky.  Eat and enjoy!  They’re better when chilled.  And, as I mentioned before, this can be a mix and match type of recipe.  Rather than chili powder a little ginger powder would be good.  Or some orange zest.  You could also grind up some peppermint for a festive holiday treat!  Enjoy everyone!!  Happy Monday!!!