Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto

It’s springtime and time for everything green! One of our most favorite spreads and sauces is pesto. Store-bought pesto is pretty pricey, and making your own can be too (especially if you use pine nuts). We came up with a thrifty recipe that uses less oil and walnuts. It is just as good. This recipe makes LOTS but it freezes really well.  In fact, we had pesto tonight from last September. This is a recipe you will want to have on hand when your garden is bursting with basil this summer.

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto
6 cups loosely-packed, washed basil leaves
1 cup of your favorite hard cheese, shredded 
       (like aged gouda, parmesan, asiago...)
1/3 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp herbed white wine vinegar
2 -3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small fry pan, toast walnuts over medium -heat until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from the pan to cool.

In a food processor, chop the basil, walnuts, cheese and garlic. Add the white wine vinegar and gradually add the oil. Puree until it reaches your desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. We like ours a little chunkier, so we only pulse, but you can make this as smooth as you like.

Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you can freeze for about 3-4 months. It has been 5 months for our pesto and it was still good! You will only use about ¼ cup for 4 people. You can also freeze in an ice-cube tray and then put in a zippy for single servings.

Got other herbs/greens in your garden?  You can make pesto out of anything-- even a combination of herbs and greens. It is a great way to experiment and use up every bit of whatever in your garden. I have even seen recipes that use jalapeno and anaheim peppers, too. Yum! Got a favorite pesto combination? I would love to hear it!

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Here is a fun and tasty way to enjoy your pesto sauce using ingredients you probably have around the house. You can substitute chickpeas or cannellini beans for your protein if you like. Enjoy!

6 oz whole-wheat pasta
¼ cup pesto
¼ cup half and half (can be fat-free)
4 Tbsp low-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel
½ cup reserved pasta water

Combine the noodles with the cream cheese and ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Toss in the pesto and the half and half. Serve with chickpeas or chicken breast and a green salad. Serves 4.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs & Healthy Egg Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of hard-boiled eggs. Actually, it was really the yolks that were a turn off as a kid—I didn’t like the texture (unless it was blended into something like mayo!). But when I started having them in restaurants, I came to love them! The whites weren’t rubbery, there wasn’t an ugly green ring around the yolk and the yolk was so delicate and creamy. Yum! I’ve tried making my own, but they were never as good as the ones I ordered…until now. After a lot of trial and error, I believe this is secret to the perfect restaurant-worthy hard-boiled egg.

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
12 fresh large eggs
Cold water

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water until there is an inch of water above the tops of the eggs. Bring the eggs to a boil and cook exactly one minute. Remove from the heat and cover immediately. Let them sit for exactly 12 minutes.  

 Immediately drain the hot water gently into the sink. Place the saucepan until the water faucet and run the coldest water possible over the eggs, stirring the water gently with your hands. When the eggs are completely chilled remove from the water and enjoy! If you like, you can shell them immediately, or if you need them, later here is a trick:
                Bring a large pot to boil and drop each egg in for one second. Remove and peel immediately.

Healthy Egg Salad
Now that I finally discovered how to make eggs without having a complete disaster on my hands, I like to make this egg salad-- It’s a recipe inspired by Eating Well’s Deviled Egg recipe.

5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 Tbsp light mayo
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 green onion, chopped
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp prepared yellow mustard
Dash black pepper and cayenne

In a food processor, combine the cottage cheese, mayo and mustard. Remove the yolks from two of the eggs and add to the cottage cheese mixture. Process until smooth and creamy.  Discard the other three yolks and chop the whites from the 5 eggs. In a small bowl combine the celery, green onion and the cottage cheese mixture. Season to taste with pepper and cayenne, garnish with paprika if desired and serve!  This makes 3 sandwiches. Yum! Hope this helps you use up some of those Easter eggs!

Egg Salad per serving (3): 110 calories      6grams fat      11grams protein

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Mustikkapiiraka is the Finnish word for Blueberry Pie: mustikka=blueberry and piiraka=pie. Traditionally this pie is made on a flat baking sheet rather than in a pie plate. This gives you lots of room to be artistic with the dough, shape and design.  I made it in this traditional, rustic style for Easter—but I couldn’t resist spicing it up with a drizzle of Lavender Cream.  Here is the recipe I created after lots of research:

Finnish Blueberry Pie
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of cardamom
1 ½ sticks cold salted butter, cubed
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup heavy cream

3 cups frozen wild blueberries
1/3 cup sugar (I like raw cane sugar for this one:)
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch

Combine the cardamom, flours and sugar in a medium glass bowl. Using a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until only pea-sized chunks remain. Gently beat the egg and cream together and add to the flour mixture. Once combined, knead gently and make into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 5 minutes.

In another bowl, gently toss the blueberries in the sugar and cornstarch until they are well coated.

Using a generous amount of flour, turn the dough out onto the counter and roll out into large circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Lay a large dinner plate (about 12 inches) on the rolled dough and using as your guide, cut two inches out from the edge to form a clean 14 inch circle. Keep scraps for decorating the top later. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll onto a large baking sheet with an edge.

Mound the blueberries into the center of the circle and spread to fill about 12 inches. Fold in the outside edge of the dough on top of the blueberries to make about 1 to 1 1/2 inches around, pinching on the folds as necessary.  Roll and cut the remaining dough scraps to make your desired pattern on top of the pie. You can sprinkle the dough with sugar, or use an egg wash if you like.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are thick and bubbly. Serves 8.

Lavender Cream
In a saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, ¼ cup honey and 1 tsp lavender or 1 TBSP earl grey tea with lavender.  Over medium low heat, bring to a bubble and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Using cheese cloth or a tea bag, strain into a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served cold over the warm pie. This would also be a great base for ice cream or whipped cream;)

I hope you enjoy this Finnish delight!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Finnish Cottage Cheese Pastry Crust

Rahkakuori is a traditional cottage cheese pastry that is used for everything from quiche to blueberry tarts. I was inspired by the one in Bea Ojakangas’  Scandinavian Cooking book and have adapted it to use less butter, more cottage cheese and whole-wheat flour. Whole wheat crusts are known for being a bit more dry, but with the cottage cheese, this crust is deliciously moist and flaky—and I think better than traditional pie crust! It makes for a very flexible dough that is easy to work with AND it’s quick and healthy! Try it with your favorite filling. This is scaled for a single 9-inch crust. Yum!

Whole-Wheat Rahkakuori
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese
5 Tbsp salted butter, cold

In a medium glass bowl combine the flours. Cut cold butter into cubes and using a pastry blender, work into the dough until you see pea-sized crumbles. Add the cottage cheese and combine—the dough will be crumbly. Gently work the dough into a ball.

Tips: If the ball is just barely sticking to your hands it's perfect! I did not need to add anything to mine, but some cottage cheeses are very wet. Use your instincts.  If the dough is wet and not holding its shape, you may need to add a Tbsp or 2 more of whole-wheat flour. If is dough is very dry and does not form a ball, add a Tbsp or 2 of ice cold water.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Dust a board or the counter generously with whole-wheat flour and roll out, flipping and dusting as necessary. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll over your glass or stone pie plate. Crimp the edges, and prick with a fork. Fill according to your favorite recipe! (If it is a long baking pie, consider foiling over the crimped edge and removing towards the end of cooking.)

I used this recipe to make my Spring Quiche! I hope you enjoy this recipe as you begin your holiday baking!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tuna Sandwich for One

I’ve been trying to eat more fish and so tuna for lunch it is! Here is a simple tuna salad sandwich that I like to make. If you haven’t tried the no-drain tuna pouches, do! (Especially if you think you don’t like tuna…) The flavor is much fresher than the traditional canned variety that may have turned you off in the past. They have pouches available in many sizes, but the 2.6 ounce ones are the equivalent of one serving which is perfect for this recipe. Give it a try!

Tuna Sandwich for One
2.6 oz pouch chunk light tuna
2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
1 Tbsp low-fat canola or olive oil mayo
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Dash of pepper, cayenne and paprika

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl until well mixed. Toast a piece of multi-grain bread or half of a bagel and top with mixed greens. Spoon the tuna over the greens and enjoy!

Strawberry-Spinach Smoothie

Spinach in a smoothie? Really?! Yes. Really.  
This fruity treat is so tasty you will not even notice that hint of healthy green. It’s an easy drink to whip up for a snack or quick breakfast using items you already have on hand.  Also great with blueberries! If you don’t have protein powder, add a bit of your favorite sweetener or use some sweetened yogurt.  Enjoy!

Strawberry-Spinach Smoothie
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 medium banana
1 cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
½ cup plain greek yogurt ( I use 0% Fage)
2/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop favorite protein powder (like Biochem’s 100%Whey)
6 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except the baby spinach in a blender until smooth. Add the spinach and blend until just incorporated. (Otherwise you will end up a brown smoothie;). Pour and enjoy. This recipe serves one for breakfast or two for a snack. 

I have been traveling, but now I’m back and have lots of great recipes and ideas to share. Keep checking for more fun entries this week!