Zucchini-Apple Fritters

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What a glorious weekend, but where’s autumn!?

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As the long summer days wound down, I was kind of excited about welcoming the glorious colors of fall! Bright hues of red, yellow, orange and brown with quickly fading greens bursting in the canopies! But, fall splendor seems to be quite elusive this year!

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Despite the lack of the autumn chill, I still had the timely craving for something comforting and delicious to enjoy! My appetite is so predictable! Anyway, my craving for some homemade hashbrown (potato kind), eggs and bacon didn’t really stick. For once, I convinced myself quite easily to try to make something a little lighter and healthier. As I made a mental run of things in the refrigerator, I paused at zucchinis and Granny Smith apples.

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I decided to make some sort of a fritter using zucchini and apple, but without any eggs. I made a version of these with eggs, and decided I am not a big fan of egg-y fritters. If you like crispy texture, you will probably not enjoy this the way I made it – unless you coat it with breadcrumbs and bake/fry. These fritters (“hashbrowns”) are sort of creamy, sort of soft, sort of pate-ish. Not sure how to explain them, but they are delicious. They are very light, so you can easily eat half the fritters…and it’s OK if you do because they are, in my opinion, quite healthy! Curry powder adds a certain depth to these fritters and I highly recommend you use them. But, if you don’t have it in your pantry, you can skip it.

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These fritters are quite versatile. They will go well with eggs for breakfast or with rice and curries for a main course or just a little snack! I also stored leftovers for couple of days in the refrigerator and they warmed up beautifully in the microwave. Hope you give this recipe a try!

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Zucchini-Apple Fritters

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients
2 zucchinis, grated
1/2 Granny Smith apple, grated
2 scallions, green and white part minced finely
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
Few tablespoons of oil to pan fry the fritters

Preparation
1) Squeeze excess water out of the grated zucchini and apple and add to a medium bowl.
2) Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well by hand. This helps breakdown the ingredients a little so they are easy to form into little patties later on.
3) Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to let the cornmeal and flour soak up any excess liquid.
4) Heat a frying pan over medium heat and a tablespoon of oil. Swirl around to coat.
5) Form the mixture into golf-ball sized round. Place a few in the pan with enough room around them so you can flatten the balls into small disks, about 3″ wide.
6) Cook on one side for 2 minutes or so till golden brown. Flip carefully onto the other side and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove to a serving platter and enjoy warm.

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Pan-Grilled Tilapia with Garlic Rainbow Chard

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I love greens! Spinach, kale, collard, mustard…but I had never tried chard before! So, I was super excited when a colleague brought in a couple of bags of “excess” produce that she had from her membership in the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My “loot bag” included a large earthy turnip, a big bag of peppery arugula and a beautiful bunch of sweet rainbow chard! I must say, there is something about the rainbow chard…its deep green leaves with colorful veins and stems in purple, orange and green is definitely a thing of beauty!

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Driving home, I made a mental note of how I was going to use up all that beautiful, fresh produce! I decided on South Indian style mixed vegetable and lentil stew (sambar) with the turnip, thin crust pizza (I used a prebaked crust made of whole wheat and kamut flours) with pesto, mushrooms and arugula and…tilapia with rainbow chard sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with a healthy doze of minced garlic!

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This tilapia/rainbow chard dinner is a snap to prepare. It requires very few ingredients and takes about the same time as watching a pot of water come to boil and cooking a box of pasta! Instead of a bowl of plain, cooked pasta in less than 20 minutes, you get a beautifully plated! I sort of missed the summer BBQ flavors and opted to go with that for this dish! The chard is super simple to make – just garlic, pinch of salt and bit of olive oil! I think the green is so delicate that anything beyond this simple combo might just overpower its natural flavor and taste!

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Isn’t everyone talking about the health benefits of eating fish! So, go for it! Grab yourself a few filets and whip up this dinner in a snap!

Pan-Grilled Tilapia with Garlic Rainbow Chard

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
4 Tilapia filets, skin removed
1 tablespoon BBQ seasoning or other seasoning of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch of rainbow chard, chopped up
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Preparation
1. Lay the tilapia filets on a large plate and coat both sides with the BBQ seasoning.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
3. Place the fish in the hot skillet and “grill” for 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish is done when you can flake it easily with a fork.
4. Wipe down the pan and return to heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the rainbow chard and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes.
5. Serve the fish immediately over a serving of sautéed chard for a simple, healthy and delicious meal!

Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

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True it is July and there is just a glimmer of hope that it might actually start to feel like summer, but that shouldn’t stop you from wanting a comforting bowl of soup for a meal, right?! Well, let’s just assume that’s the case! I know a bowl of soup sounds far more inviting in the cold and dreary winter months, but hey, with this intensely flavored bowl, you might actually feel like you are vacationing somewhere in Thailand or Sri Lanka! 

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The idea for this recipe originated from a lunch break conversation with a colleague who was longingly taking out a warm bowl of homemade soup from the microwave. It smelled great and she went on to add that she was so sad that her last bit of soup made in bulk was going to be consumed! She quickly summarized the recipe for me while I made a mental note of just three things – curry powder, coconut milk and whatever you want to throw in to make it a meal! I also remembered with a smile a small Ziploc bag of kefir lime leaves that I had in the freezer from an online purchase eons ago! I knew adding that would mean I would get an addictive aroma of combination of curry, coconut and citrus! What not to love about this, huh!

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I didn’t have to wait around to make this recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand – you think it is weird? 🙂 Especially those kefir lime leaves! Oh well! By the way, for those of you who wish to avoid meat, you can easily substitute the chicken with tofu and the chicken broth with vegetable broth. I think that in essence will make this recipe vegan! A really delicious one!

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So, armful of assorted vegetables, a small tray of chicken thighs and a little of this and that, voila, the recipe was concocted in a flash! Seriously, don’t let the list of ingredients discourage you from trying this out. It is really a snap to whip up and the end result is….honestly, I think you should just make it and tell me yourself!

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Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients
6 chicken thighs, skin removed
Salt and pepper to season the chicken
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided for use
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ inch thick slices
1/2 large red pepper, sliced into 2″ strips
1/2 large green pepper, sliced into 2″ strips
1 cup sliced mushrooms (button or baby bella)
1/4 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon mild or medium curry powder
2 kefir lime leaves, zest of 1 lime OR 2″ piece of lemon grass, crushed
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 32-oz container chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
Dash of crushed red pepper, optional
3 corn on the cobs, cut in half (optional)
1 cup of cooked noodles (rice or Udon preferred) – Optional

Preparation:
1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan over high heat and drizzle a tablespoon of oil. Place the chicken thighs in a single layer and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and add the vegetables, including onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes.
4. Stir in the curry powder and cook for another minute or two till the raw smell of the curry powder fades away. Add in the browned chicken pieces.
5. Slowly add the chicken broth, water and soy sauce. Adjust the amount of soy sauce to your taste. Add in the kefir lime leaves, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce heat to medium and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes till the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
6. Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in the coconut milk, reserving a few tablespoons to top the soups before serving.
7. Serve hot with some noodles (if using) and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

You can refrigerate any leftover for consuming later. Just know that when you reheat, the soup may look a bit “split” because of the coconut milk trying to separate from the soup. The taste will still be great!

Super Crown Muffins

 

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Baking is one of my favorite ways to start my day! It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is – if I get the desire, I jump to action, pulling out the staples while thinking about the flavors or the mix-ins.

20150209_071820Even though they mostly turned out deliciously moist and flavorful, I was never fully impressed with how they looked. For every batch I pulled out of the oven, my hankering for perfecting the beautiful super crowns you see in coffeehouse muffins kept getting stronger! No matter how much I researched on tips and techniques, my heart would sink every time I pulled out a delicious yet flat muffin batch – well, until this week!

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So, you see, I didn’t give up! I kept whipping up batch after batch nearly every week! After all, they do make great after school snack or mid morning pick me upper even if they are flat topped! I tried tweaking an ingredient here and ingredient there, while still trying to keep the end product relatively healthy! Yes, “healthy” is a loosely used term, so let me explain what I mean. These muffins don’t use much added fat (1/4 cup oil for a dozen), use a blend of whole wheat, all purpose and wheat germ, touch of honey and a bit of boost from 1% milk and fat free yogurt! In my opinion, this probably qualifies as relatively healthy compared to what you will pick up at the grocery store or your favorite coffeehouse. And the best part….this recipe is awesome for those of you who want to use few different mix-ins – like the blueberries and chocolate chip versions I made here. Read on to find out more!

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So, unlike what you might read on the internet about having to overfill the muffin pans to achieve the sky-high crown effect, these muffins do just great with about 3/4 fill. They puff up so beautifully that I sometimes catch myself taking a few peeks before they are done! 🙂 And the golden color….You have to try this to experience the joy yourself! So, I hope you will grab couple of mixing bowls and go to task! Enjoy!

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Super Crown Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
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Ingredients
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fat free plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup 1% milk
Add-ins: Chocolate chips, nuts, berries…
Optional: Streusel topping: Combine 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 12-well muffin pan and set aside (or alternatively use paper liners)
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients
3. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently fold in just until the flour mixture gets moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX!
5. Scoop about a tablespoon of batter into each greased well. Add a few chocolate chips or berries or whatever you choose. Divide rest of the batter evenly among all the wells and top with few more chocolate chips or other add-in of your choice.
6. If using streusel topping, divide it evenly among all the muffins.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes till the crowns are puffed up and beautifully golden!
8. At the end of baking, remove the pan and let the muffins cool for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

You can refrigerate these muffins for 3-5 days. Because of the low fat content, the muffins taste better when you microwave for just a few seconds!

Comfort Pasta with Kale and Ground Beef

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What is it with pasta and the gazillion ways in which you can prepare them! They truly are a star pantry item!

I know I said I am going to try to get back on my healthy wagon, so I think you will appreciate this recipe. Yes, yes, it’s almost the end of January when most of the resolutions fall to the wayside. But, after trying this recipe, eating healthy may not be that difficult after all.

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This recipe is pretty simple, something I concocted while recovering from a mini version of the flu (thankfully short-lived due to Tamiflu). I didn’t quite have the energy to spend an hour in the kitchen, but at the same time didn’t want to be bed sofa-ridden for another meal. So, there I lay making a mental rundown on the items I had on hand, especially the pound of extra lean beef I was going to make chili with before I fell sick.

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So, now that the chili making was off the table till next weekend, I figured I should use up the beef in some form rather than freezing it. Pasta dish it will be! Kale, carrots, mushrooms, beef and a touch of cream and garlic! Simple, yet comforting enough!

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What are you waiting for? Grab the handful of ingredients this recipe calls for and whip up this dish while the pasta cooks! Yes, it is that simple! Go ahead and try it, you might actually end up planning to make it again soon!

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  • Servings: ”4″
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Ingredients
1/2 package pasta of your choice (I used penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound lean (or extra-lean) ground beef
1 small bunch kale, rinsed and broken into small pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups of slices mushrooms
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons of cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan
crushed red pepper, optional

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and cook pasta per directions.
2. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion till translucent.
3. Add ground beef and brown the meat, breaking up any large clumps.
4. Add the carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
5. Now, add the kale and mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
6. Season with Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt per your taste.
7. Add the cream and grate the nutmeg.
8. Toss with pasta and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Light Alfredo Sauce

20140507_194948Who doesn’t love the creamy deliciousness of Alfredo sauce??!! Yeah, that’s what I thought…everyone does, right! So, you have had Fettucine Alfredo many a time! But how about a grilled chicken breast topped with a lightened Alfredo sauce with notes of garlic and citrus??? We are talking pure indulgence without wreaking havoc with your diet! So, if you are like me and have been on the quest to find a lighter version of this goodness, look no more. I think once you try this recipe, you will agree it’s a keeper.

So, anyway, as you guys already know, typical Alfredo sauce though is loaded with fat (anyone watching their calories out there?). So, Alfredo, like other rich, calorific sauces are usually reserved for extra special occasions, but what if I could enjoy it without any guilt more often than couple of times a year!!

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I do try to make quick white sauces with 1% milk thickened with a roux. Although they impart a slight creaminess, it is definitely not the same as the richer version. This recipe however might change that though once and for all. Little bit of lemon zest, a dollop of reduced fat cream cheese, generous helping of grated parmesan and lots (did I say lots?) of garlic in this sauce provide the satisfying creamy richness without your arteries swelling up with plaque.

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Drizzle it over grilled chicken just before serving and serve with a side of your favorite vegetable or salad. Trust me, you won’t even miss the bread or other carbs! It is satisfying and will leave you longing to make it again!

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Grilled Chicken Breasts with Light Alfredo Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
4 chicken breasts, cut to about 4-6 oz each
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced finely
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups 1% milk
2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup grated pecorino cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional – sautéed mushrooms

Preparation
1. Begin by preparing the chicken. Marinate the chicken in a marinade of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper for about 15-20 minutes.
2. Preheat the grill or a sauté pan at medium high heat. Cook the chicken breasts for 12-14 minutes till juices run clear and meat is cooked through. Remove to a platter, loosely covered with a foil and set aside till you prepare the sauce.
3. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and sauté the lemon zest and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so.
4. Stir in the creamed cheese, followed by milk. Stir continuously to break up any lumps. Cook for about 5 minutes till the sauce starts to simmer and thicken up a little.
5. Slowly stir in the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for just about a minute or so till the sauce becomes evenly creamy and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped parsley.
6. Sauce will thicken further as it cools. Therefore, it is best to serve immediately. Spoon desired amount of sauce over the grilled chicken breasts alongside a serving of steamed or sautéed veggies.

NOTE: You will likely have leftover sauce. If so, store in the refrigerator for a day or so. You could thin the sauce by adding bit of milk or cooked pasta water. I mixed my leftover sauce with a tablespoon of homemade light pesto sauce and tossed with cooked pasta for a delicious and quick lunch. My family absolutely loved the leftover as much as their dinner.