Asian Lettuce Boats

Asian Lettuce Boats :: Gourmet & Glitter

This was one of those random, clean-out-my-fridge, T-0 days until next grocery trip meals.  But it was just too darn easy and delicious not to share!

I used Romaine leaves (that was all I had) as little boats instead of a standard piece of iceberg or butter lettuce that you would typically use for lettuce wraps.  They were just as good and had a slightly different look to them that I kind of liked.

As for the filling, I just browned some turkey in EVOO and added in a hodge podge mix of all my favorite Asian pantry/fridge staples: soy sauce, Sriracha, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and peanut butter.  A little avocado, cucumber and cilantro to finish it off and dress it up and there ya have it!

A super simple, healthy meal packed with flavor and protein! Enjoy.

Asian Lettuce Boats (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

1 lb ground turkey

1 tbsp EVOO

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1 1/2 tsp Sriracha (or to taste, depending on preferred spice level)

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 glove garlic, minced

1 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter

1 heart Romaine lettuce, washed, tops trimmed, and leaves separated

1 avocado, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 tsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Brown turkey in EVOO, seasoning with minimal salt and ground pepper to taste, crumbling to break up

2) Once turkey is cooked through, add in soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, and garlic and stir to combine.  Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.

3) Add in peanut butter and stir to combine.  Simmer until thickens, about 2 minutes.

4) Spoon turkey mixture into Romaine leaves.  Top with sliced avocado, sliced cucumber and sprinkle cilantro over top to taste.

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Weekend Meal Prep: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

mediterraneanquinoaTuesdays are my Sundays, if that makes sense.  Since I work the weekends, my days off are typically Monday and Tuesday, and I often use Tuesdays as many people use Sundays– to prep for my week, do laundry, get the house sparkly clean, cook, relax, etc.  I like to try to make a few different dishes that I can easily grab for work or have for a quick side dish throughout the week, and some type of quinoa is always on heavy rotation.  Easy, healthy, quick and SO versatile.  Sometimes I do a sweet quinoa cooked in almond milk with fruit and cinnamon (recipe to come on a future post!) but today I’m doing this savory mediterranean variety.

IMG_1452After you rinse your quinoa and put it on to boil, use the 15 minutes or so it takes to cook to get everything else ready.  Chop up and pit some kalamata olives (oil-cured or another variety would work fine too).  Next, the herbs– I am VERY generous with my herbs in this.  I use a heaping pile of parsley and basil for lots of flavor and color.

IMG_1451Next, the dressing.  Combine the juice of one lemon with 2-3 tbsp of EVOO and season liberally with course sea salt & fresh ground pepper.  You’ll also need about 2 tbsp of drained capers and 1/2 cup of crumbled feta.

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IMG_1449Let the quinoa cool a bit before combining together in a large bowl.  Chill and use as you wish for a great on-the-go lunch or as a side dish with chicken or fish!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

INGREDIENTS

1 cup quinoa, rinsed (uncooked)

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 to 3/4 a cup chopped kalamata olives or other variety, pits removed

1/4 to 1/2 cup equal parts chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley and basil

2 tbsp capers, drained

1 lemon

3 tbsp EVOO

1/2 cup crumbled feta

sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Bring quinoa to boil in chicken broth, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.  Let quinoa cool.

2) In small bowl, combine juice of the lemon with EVOO and salt and pepper, whisk together.

3) In large bowl, combine all ingredients with cooled quinoa, stir well to evenly coat.

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Turkey Pumpkin Poblano Chili

IMG_1249Are you snowed in yet?  It’s coming down out there and for the first time in a LONG time, I am NOT out working in the snow! I made a huge pot of this chili the other day in anticipation of this week’s weather..hellooo leftovers.  This warms the bones in a big way.

And while chili is certainly hearty, it’s actually a pretty healthy one-pot meal.  As an entire meal, it packs a lot of protein, some veggies, and especially when you make it with ground turkey, it’s really not that heavy.  That is, as long as you don’t load it with TONS of cheese and sour cream (a little’s okay! my usual is about two tablespoons of shredded cheese and one tablespoon of reduced fat sour cream).

IMG_1247If you don’t have the ingredients in your pantry now and have already made your snow-ma-geddon grocery store run (bread and milk!) this is also a great option if you’re entertaining for the big game.

IMG_1245You can easily adjust the spice level on this by using just one poblano and less cayenne.  Poblanos don’t have a TON of heat but you get a bit of a kick using 3.  They have a GREAT flavor though and really add a nice touch to the chili, so use at least one if you can!

And if you’ve never used pumpkin in your chili, this may just get you hooked.  The pumpkin puree is a great thickening agent, and really adds a nice earthy quality.  I love playing around with unexpected additions to chili because it’s pretty hard to mess up!  If you haven’t already, check out my Smoky Spicy Butternut Squash Chili…another twist on the standard.

Alright now get near a window with a bowl of this and watch the snow come down! Stay cozy!

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INGREDIENTS

1 lb ground turkey

1 onion, diced

3 poblano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced

1 can sweet corn, preferably no salt added

1 can diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can or bottle beer

1 1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1) In a large dutch oven or pot, brown turkey in about 1 tbsp EVOO, breaking to crumble apart into pieces

2) Add in onion and poblanos, sauteeing on medium heat until softened (about 3 minutes)

3) Add in pumpkin puree and all spices, stirring to combine.  Continue to cook for about a minute.

4) Add both cans of tomatoes, corn (drained), and beer.  Stir to combine and cover pot.

5) Let chili simmer on low for at least an hour

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Happy Fit Year

photo credit :: Pinterest

photo credit :: Pinterest

It’s that time of year where the gym is beyond packed and everyone is looking for ways to amp up or switch up their fitness regimens.  I, like pretty much everyone else I know, indulged over the holidays a little TOO much for my liking so it’s time to really get back on track.  I started off on a new foot this week with a pretty kick-butt class (which I’ll get to in a few) that hurt so good.

Moving over the summer forced a big switch in my workout routine.  I really miss our gym in Philly, its TRX classes, and my trainer Tony who consisently challenged and pushed me to try new things and get outside my workout comfort zone.

photo credit :: Pinterest

photo credit :: Pinterest

We have a small gym in our building so I’ve been doing a lot of what I learned from my training sessions on my own there.  And thanks to my fabulous friend Kelly, who introduced me to them, I have become a huge follower of the Tone It Up! girls.

photo credit :: Tone It Up

photo credit :: Tone It Up

Their toning exercises are awesome and so easy to do with minimal equipment..they’re mostly just free weights.  I particularly like their high intensity, or HIIT, workouts and cardio routines.  My current favorite treadmill workouts are this one:

photo credit :: Tone It Up

photo credit :: Tone It Up

and the Itty Bitty Cardio in this post (scroll down to Wednesday).

itty bitty cardio

photo credit :: Tone It Up

I keep their website as a favorite on my iPhone and just play the toning workout videos in our gym.  They also have a lot of great recipes, their own rice protein powder, AND they just got their own show on Bravo.  Their empire is insane! Such a motivating online community, I love it.

I have been supplementing the on-my-own stuff by trying out various classes in Hoboken and NYC.  I like this so that I can continue to try new things and switch it up while meeting new people and spending time with friends.  Hopping on the train, I can be at the West Village or Tribeca Soul Cycle in minutes and it’s always a great way to get in not just a serious workout, but also a girls morning with a friend and a heavy dose of inspiration and motivation for the week!  There’s a reason the brand has such a cult-like following.  The classes are super tough, but more so for me it’s the instructors who really stand out.  Each one I’ve had just knows how to motivate you in such a powerful way.  Maybe it’s the ridiculously good playlists too.  Oh and the Jonathan Adler Soul “scent”.  For Jersey people– Soul just opened its first NJ location in Short Hills.  I did some live shots there the day of the opening.

soul

I also did a story on Work It Out here in Hoboken when they opened their 2nd location and I just love the concept of their “Blended Ride” classes.  It’s 25 minutes on the bike and then 25 minutes off– each class is different, targeting different toning areas and working in the ballet bare, these cool disc things you balance on, and of course weights.  I also love the names..like “Sweata Weather” which I just took for the first time!  A lot of sweat going on there.  And I liked it.  I love that the owners are female entrepreneurs who have created a beautiful business with a really unique brand and inspiring community.  They have day-care included mommy classes all week long and a children’s gymnastics program as well.

work it out 1

photo credit :: News 12 NJ

I also have jumped on the ballet barre bandwagon and gave Local Barre a try.  I really like the classes for something different.  Each class I’ve taken I’ve felt some serious toning with the isometric movements.  If you’ve never taken a barre class, think staying in a squat (or the ballet term: plie) until your thighs are shaking uncontrollably.  Then pulse up and down veerrry slightly…until you’re shaking even more.  Local Barre also uses these small, squishy weighted Spri balls for arm and back toning exercises.  More holding, pulsing, and shaking with those.  And a lot of ab work.  These classes are tough in a totally different way than a high-cardio class.  I really like them as an alternative though.  I definitely want to give some of the NYC barre classes a go.  Physique 57 is next on my list.

If you’re into the NYC fitness scene and don’t already follow my friend Laura’s blog, werk it nyc, I highly recommend it!  She has tried out a TON of classes and documents her experiences with a lot of specifics, and such honesty and humor.  What are you all doing to switch up your fitness routine this new year?  Always looking for new ideas!

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Rustic Tuscan Soup with Turkey Sausage, Escarole & Zucchini

Rustic Tuscan Soup

Happy New Year! So, half of America’s in this thing called a “polar vortex” right now.  My meteorologist friends explain it as a kind of whirlpool of dense frigid air that typically doesn’t dip this far down into the US.  Pretty rare to see these kind of extreme temperatures in this much of the country.  Tomorrow, in the NJ/NYC area, we’re going to have a high of 12.  With the wind chill, it’s going to feel like 20 below or so.  And that’s nothing compared to what some of our friends in Minneapolis are dealing with.  The ACTUAL air temperature is negative 20 something!

I am off work tomorrow.  I do not plan to leave the house…I’m using the ridiculously frigid weather to force myself make it a marathon clean and organize day.  Oh, and I may just make this soup again.  It is a warm your bones, super flavorful, healthy new main player in my winter soup rotation.

The turkey sausage gives it a rich flavor and escarole is a favorite soup ingredient in my family (my grandma Lil’s Wedding Soup is still how we start every Christmas meal and an absolute winter staple).  I wanted some more veggie content in this and just worked with what I had, so I added a roughly chopped zucchini and tomato.  Cannellini beans would be awesome in this too, and would have pumped up the protein factor..but my husband isn’t a fan so I left them out this time.

The best thing is that this is so super easy.  It takes 20 minutes or so to put together, so it’s perfect to throw on the stove after being out in tomorrow’s arctic tundra! Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 lb or package hot Italian turkey sausage, taken out of casing

1 large bunch of escarole, cleaned and roughly chopped

1 large zucchini, chopped into large chunks

1 large tomato, chopped into large chunks and seeds removed

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced finely

1 tbsp EVOO

1 1/2 BOXES of low-sodium organic chicken stock (Rachel Ray’s brand is great if you haven’t tried it!)

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Heat large dutch oven or pot until hot, add in EVOO and brown turkey sausage, breaking up into crumbles as it cooks.

2) Once sausage is pretty much browned through, add in onion and garlic, stirring well.  Let onion sautee until translucent, about 3 minutes or so.

3)  Add in zucchini and chopped escarole.  The pot will be pretty full but the escarole cooks down.  Pour chicken stock over top and mix together, positioning the escarole down into the broth.

4) Add in tomato, season entire pot well with salt and pepper.

5) Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Soup is finished when escarole is soft and wilted and zucchini is fork tender.

6) Grate parm over top of pot of soup and some into each individual bowl before serving.

 

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Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

IMG_1024With Thanksgiving just a few days away, our time for fall recipes is dwindling! Soon it will be all cranberries and gingerbread up in here.  Still, my love for butternut squash transcends time, so as far as I’m concerned this is a great recipe to make right on through the winter.  You could even make this with frozen butternut squash if you wanted to in the warmer months when butternut squash is no longer in season.

This was easy and though it’s a comfort-food pasta dish (absolutely PERFECT for yesterday’s 20-something bone-chilling weather), using whole grain pasta or pasta with added protein (a “plus” pasta) and the addition of spinach make this a more well-rounded dish health-wise.  The best part about this is the butternut squash puree, which acts as a creamy, decadent sauce even though there’s only about 1 tbsp of light cream in the whole dish.

I used a combination of manchego, parmigiano reggiano and reduced fat mozzarella but you could certainly do just mozzarella and parm or even just parm..really whatever cheese is your preference.  I like the nuttiness of the parm and manchego with the butternut squash and sage flavors.

And not that you need any more leftovers this week, but this is a great leftover meal..and good for crowds this holiday season too!

Enjoy!

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb whole grain or protein plus pasta

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks (can use pre-cut squash to save time..about 3-4 cups)

1 tbsp light cream

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

2 cups baby spinach

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (mix of manchego, parmigiano reggiano and reduced fat mozzarella)

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (jarred is fine too if that’s all you have)

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

3 large sage leaves, chopped into chiffonade

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Heat one large pot of water to a boil.  Drop in the chopped butternut squash and boil until fork tender, about 5-7 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  Drain and let cool slightly.

2) Heat another large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  While that’s coming to a boil, start working on squash puree.  Add squash, chicken stock, light cream, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and cayenne into a blender.  Season mixture with salt and pepper.  Blend carefully and slowly until smooth, in intervals, making sure to hold down the lid.

3) By this time, water for pasta should be about ready.  Cook pasta until just under al dente..being careful not to overcook because it will cook a little bit more in the oven.  Drain pasta and spread into large casserole dish.

4) Pour butternut squash puree over top of pasta.  Add in spinach leaves and toss together, spreading out evenly in casserole dish.  Top casserole with shredded cheese and sprinkle the sage chiffonade evenly over top.

5) Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and top of casserole is slightly browned.

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