Peanut Sesame Noodles

You know what sucks? When you make the decision to calorie splurge because you’re craving (fill in the blank) and you open up that delivery to-go container, take your first bite, and then get immediately disappointed. This happens to me a lot. When I’m craving something that’s not too good for me, I want it to be WORTH IT! So in an effort to make sure I enjoy my calorie ridden meals I sometimes make them myself. (See some of my comfort food recipes here). This recipe could be a lot worse in the not so good for you department but using the soba noodles and not frying the chicken in a sugar sauce really makes this meal pretty good for you. And it’s packed with protein!

This particular night I was craving cold sesame noodles. I had been disappointed after ordering them a few times recently. I decided to make a version of them for dinner with chicken breast and eat it warm.  You will need…

Ingredients:

  • Peanut butter- any kind you like
  • Soba noodles (or any type of lomein or noodle you prefer)
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • 1-3 heaping tablespoons of chili paste depending on your tolerance of heat
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tahini (optional)
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • Chicken breast, cut up into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2-3 stalks of Celery, diced
  • Fresh ginger, grated (optional)
  • Scallions, chopped
  • Garlic, grated

A photo of most of my ingredients here:

Directions:

  • First start by marinating your chicken in soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, fresh grated garlic, chili paste (if you like spice) fresh grated ginger and a sprinkle of salt

Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for your noodles.

Then make your peanut sesame sauce while the chicken marinates.

IMG_4305Place a heaping spoonful of peanut butter in a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. You can choose the amount of chili paste to add but I put about a tablespoon. I also only used a tsp of sugar even though most recipes call for more (I prefer more heat and less sweet).

Add a clove of garlic, sesame seeds, a dash of sesame oil, tahini and a few tablespoons of warm water. I know my measurements aren’t exact but you have to go with your gut and use more of the flavors you like and less that you don’t. Blend and set aside. If it’s too thick add a touch more soy sauce and or water. 

Add sesame oil to a hot wok and add in your onions, stir for a minute and then celery. Let cook on high heat for another minute or two. 

Next goes in your chicken and stir. You want to brown all sides of the chicken. 

Shut the heat off your chicken and let sit. It shouldn’t take long to cook because you cut the chicken up into small pieces. 

When your noodles are done, add a dash of sesame oil to keep them from sticking and let them cool for a moment.

 

Its up to you if you want to combine the chicken with your noodles or keep them separate. I took some photos with and without.  Top your final Bowl with sesame seeds and add scallions. 


 

 

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‘Ugly’ Steak n Cheese Tacos

I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now and I’m always encouraging friends to try it. But I’ve never posted the recipe because the photo of the steak… eh not so pretty. I finally decided to suck it up and just post it because I make this meal on the regular. It’s one of our favorite go-to weeknight meals that’s fairly healthy, inexpensive and easy to throw together. And in the end it really doesn’t matter the photos are ugly because the tacos are deeeelicious. (By the way I challenge anyone who makes this recipe to send me a not ugly photo 😊)
These tacos are really a lighter alternative to a Philly cheese steak grinder but they don’t lack in flavor. If you can eat just two it’s a great meal. The key is Trader Joe’s thinly shaved beef steak.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Shaved beef steak
  • Red or white onion, sliced
  • Sliced portobello mushrooms (optional
  • Sliced peppers (bell and jalapeños)
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin and coriander
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, avocado, fresh cilantro, hot sauce, salsa verde, cilantro (I can keep going…)

Directions:

Slice your peppers and sauté. I seasoned them with all the seasonings listed above in a little oil. 

When I have the time, I like to caremalize onions on their own and then add the mushrooms to them at the end.

If time is not in your side, throw the onions in the pan, wait a few minutes and then add the peppers. Mushrooms are totally optional but are an easy addition.


While your veggies are cooking, prep your steak by placing on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture- this will help your beef sear a nice brown instead of steam the meat.

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper for heat. You can use chili powder instead for more flavor without the spice. Whatever floats your boat!

The trick to the steak is getting your pan very hot. A cast iron skillet is a great option for this meal but any pan will work. Spray with some oil and sear the steak on both sides. Sometimes I use my tongs or a fork to tenderize the meat while it’s cooking by gently tapping it. I cook it in small batches because if you crowd the pan the steak will steam.


When all is ready to go, I like to melt the cheese on a small portion of the steak by adding it right into the pan and then assemble the taco with veggies because when is melty gooey cheese not better?

I heat my taco shells right on the flame of my stove for a little char.

Plate your ugly but delicious food. Top with hot sauce, fresh cilantro, avocado and/or sour cream. I’ve tried it every which way and it all works.


 

This night I went straight up sour cream with peppers mushrooms and onions​

This night I had peppers and onions and topped it with some homemade spicy enchilada sauce I had on hand.


Another great topping: throw avocado, cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice in a blender. Purée and use in lieu of sour cream. It never disappoints.
And my funny meme for the day because I can’t get enough tacos.

Turkey Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Spicy Enchilada Sauce

This recipe that can be made a thousand different ways. Put an Italian or Greek twist on it instead of Mexican, use ground beef instead of ground turkey, go vegetarian with beans and tofu, add rice if you don’t want it carb free… I could go on and on. But the husband and I are on a healthy kick as of late so that was my guiding principle. Ground turkey sauteed with veggies and stuffed in charred poblano peppers over a simple spicy red enchilada sauce.

The Stuffing:

  • 1 package organic ground turkey breast (about 1lb)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Few tablespoons of chicken broth or tomato sauce 
  • Spices: I used a mixture of the following. Feel free to adjust. 
    • Ancho chili powder
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Cayenne pepper for a little heat
    • Onion Powder
    • Salt & pepper
  • Your choice of cheese for topping – I used a light mozzarella. A Mexican blend or pepper jack would be great. 

    Instructions:

    Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. 

    Saute the onions first for a few minutes and then add the peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

    Season the meat with all of your spices and add to a hot pan with the peppers and onions. Break the meat down with a spoon. You can add a little chicken broth or tomato juice to help soften the meat and cover with a lid for a few minutes. I used chicken broth and some cherry tomatoes I had from the garden. I also mixed in a little bit of cheese so it sticks the mixture together. 

    It sure don’t look pretty but it tastes good!

    The Sauce:

    • 2 ancho chili peppers in adobo sauce (these come in a can, and are smoky and hot!)
    • 1/2 of an onion, chopped 
    • Olive oil
    • Fresh chopped tomatoes, or a can of tomato sauce (I happened to have fresh tomatoes from my garden so that’s what I used)
    • Chicken or vegetable broth

    Instructions:

    Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil.

    Add ancho chili peppers and stir for a few minutes.

    Add tomatoes and chicken broth, season with salt & pepper. Let the broth reduce and thicken a bit.

    Puree the sauce with a hand held mixer or pour into a blender. Let it cook down for a few more minutes and then set aside.

    Tip: if your sauce comes out a bit too spicy for your taste, consider adding a pinch of sugar or a touch of cream.

    The Peppers:

    Poblanos chance spicy but are not always. If you’re cooking for kids maybe opt to use bell peppers instead. 

    You can either throw the peppers on a grill or char them over a flame on your stove top as pictured below. They will cook more when you bake them in the oven so it’s just to get a nice blistered skin on them.

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    Pour the sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Cut the peppers in half and fill with the meat stuffing.

    Top with cheese and bake at 400 until nice and bubbly. I through the broiler on at the end to brown the cheese. 

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    Enjoy!

     

    Shrimp Scampi


    Shrimp Scampi is one of those simple dinners that doesn’t take long but requires fresh and high quality ingredients to make it truly delicious. 

    Ingredients 

    • 3/4 – 1lb peeled and deveined shrimp 
    • 3/4 lb pasta (linguine, spaghetti or capellini)
    • 4TBSP quality olive oil 
    • 4TBSP butter
    • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped 
    • 2 shallots, chopped
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Salt & fresh cracked pepper
    • Fresh parsley, chopped 
    • White wine–whatever you like 
    • Half of lemon, juiced 

    Instructions 

    – Put pot of boiling water on and salt heavily. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile… 

    – Put 2 tbsp butter and 2tbsp oil in pan on medium heat. Add red pepper flakes. 

    – Add shallots and garlic, sauté for 3-5 minutes. 


    Add shrimp and cook until pink. 


    Remove shrimp before fully cooked and set aside. 


    Put the rest of the butter and oil in the pan and add white wine and lemon juice. Reduce for a few minutes. 


    – Add the shrimp back in the pan and cook another 2 minutes or until done.  


    – Add fresh chopped parsley. 
    – Pour contents of pan over bowl of pasta. Option to add toasted breadcrumbs with a little olive oil and/or parmesan cheese and more squeezed lemon juice. 

    Caesar Salad

    There are a lot of ways to make caesar dressing and this just happens to be my way. It doesn’t include egg yolks or whole anchovies and it’s not thick and white. My lightened up version is pretty healthy compared to other options (definitely better than store bought) and when you’re just having salad with grilled chicken for dinner, it’s ok to have some calories in the dressing. Plus I don’t use croutons, so throw a little more cheese in there!

    This recipe is quick and easy for a healthy weeknight meal. You have to taste test the proportions of ingredients but you’ll get the hang of it. It’s not an exact science. 


    Ingredients:

    • Juice of 1-2 lemons 
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • Squeeze of anchovy paste (optional- about 1-2 tsps)
    • Squeeze of brown mustard (about a tablespoon or less)
    • Dash or two of worchestshire sauce
    • Fresh grated parmesan cheese (at least 1 tbsp. Go with 2!)
    • Olive oil, the good stuff
    • Salt and fresh cracked pepper 


    Put all ingredients except the cheese and oil into a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Then add your oil and whisk some more. Then add cheese which will add a creamy saltiness to it. Mix well and do a taste test to see if it’s balanced. 


    It will take some practice to get it right but once you get it, it’s so good. 


    Toss on your romaine, and add grilled chicken on top! I recommend washing and cutting your lettuce, put it in a bowl with paper towels in the fridge while you make the dressing and do other things. It will make your lettuce nice and crisp. 

    Fish Tacos

    There are so many versions of fish tacos out there and believe me I’ve tried more than my fair share. There’s nothing better than a deep fried crispy fish taco with a tangy coleslaw on top. Especially if it’s paired with a margarita and lots of sunshine. But, reality check, it’s February and it’s the time of year when we really need to shed those winter thermals (otherwise known as fat on the gut) and trim down our waste lines. This recipe will transport you to warmer times and deliver on flavor without all the guilt.

    Ingredients

    For the Fish: (this will make 4 good sized tacos, so 2 each)

    • 1lb of cod (it’s a nice white fish and much less expensive than Sea Bass or my favorite, Halibut)
    • 1 lime, juice and zest
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Garlic powder
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Olive oil drizzle
    • Yellow corn taco shells

    Avocado Crema

    • 1/2 of an avocado
    • Fresh Cilantro
    • Jalapeño (seeds and veins removed)
    • 1-2 spoonfuls of light sour cream
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • Salt & Pepper

    Coleslaw

    • 1/2 red cabbage sliced thin
    • 1/2 of white cabbage sliced thin
    • Cilantro
    • Juice of one lime
    • Little olive oil
    • Splash of apple cider or red wine vinegar
    • Garlic powder
    • Salt and pepper

    You can buy a bag of pre-cut coleslaw to make it easier. I’ve used Whole Foods cabbage, carrot and beet slaw which is also great.  With the recipe above, you will have leftovers of the coleslaw which is great on its own as a salad or even better leftover the next day.

    Directions:

    Season your fish with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper (just a little cayenne if you don’t like spicy), lime zest, lime juice and olive oil. Let marinate in the fridge for 10-15 minutes while you prep your other ingredients.

    Place your cabbage in a bowl with cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix to combine.

    Using a small food processor, place all ingredients in for the crema- avocado, a bunch of cilantro, a jalapeno, lime juice, sour cream and salt/pepper. If for some reason it comes out too bitter, add a dash of agave syrup (or white balsamic) to sweeten it. I find sometimes if your avocado isn’t ripe enough, it needs it. Puree to combine.

    Put your pan on medium/high heat and put fish in. Cook for a few minutes and flip. It won’t take long but it depends on how thick it is. When it’s solid white you are good to go!

    While your fish is finishing, place your taco shell on the burner and brown. If you don’t have a gas burner, just heat it up anyway you like (in a pan, microwave, etc. I like the flavor of the char). 

    Put your crema down first, then your fish and top with the tangy fresh cole slaw.

    Eat and enjoy all the flavor and none of the guilt!

    Here’s a snap chat video from the last time I made them.

     

    Don’t knock ’em til you try ’em “Turkey Meatballs”

    I’m not going to lie, the thought of turkey meatballs wasn’t appetizing to me. As an Italian especially, I made some assumptions that they couldn’t possibly be good. I was wrong… And I made these on a weeknight in under a half hour and not only was it a healthy option but it was truly delicious. They were also good leftover. Give em a try!

    Ingredients:

    • 1.25 lbs of lean white meat turkey breast
    • 3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
    • 1 small onion, grated
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
    • 1-2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
    • 1/4 cup imported parmigiano cheese
    • Tomato sauce
    • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • Red pepper flakes to taste
    • Salt & pepper
    • Pam oil spray

    Directions

    Pre heat oven to 400.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, onion, egg, bread crumbs and cheese. Mix well and then add the turkey. Roll into balls and place on a sprayed cookie sheet. This recipe made 15 balls which came out to 119 calories each including the sauce and cheese.

    Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes. Then place in cast iron pan to finish searing on all sides.


    Then add tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.

    Then add mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler until bubbly and browned.


    Mmmmmmm. Time to eat!

    Sausage & Pepper Grinders

    Sausage and peppers is an Italian classic. It’s easy to make and can be a meal on it’s own or on fresh Italian bread for a delicious sandwich. The catch is that this meal is all about getting the right ingredients. Go to an Italian deli and get their store made sausage, mozzarella and fresh baked bread. The ingredients will make the difference in an average grinder and one that blows you away. This sandwich we made last Sunday night was incredible and the two of us ate two of these…


    Ingredients:

    • 3 small hot Italian sausage links and 3 sweet links (or whatever combination you prefer) fresh made at a deli
    • 1 sweet onion
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 green pepper
    • 1-2 sliced garlic cloves (this is optional)
    • Olive oil for sautéing
    • 2 fresh baked Italian grinders
    • Fresh basil
    • Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese
    • 1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes
    • Salt & pepper

    Directions:

    • Turn your pan on med/high heat and brown your sausages, then remove from pan.
    •  Add olive oil and sliced onions & garlic to pan and sautee until start to brown. 

    • Add your peppers and let them cook down for several minutes. Then add your diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil. Bring them up to a simmer and add sausage.
    • Cover the pan with a cracked lid and let cook through and let the favors meld. Roughly 15-20 minutes. You really can’t over cook this dish.
    • Cut your sausages length wise in half so you can place them flat on the bread. Then add the toppings and fresh sliced cheese.     
    • Put in the oven on broil until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella is melted. Then enjoy a truly amazing sandwich. 

    A note on leftovers… We had leftover peppers and onions in the sauce but no sausage. The next night I boiled some pasta, tossed it in the sauce, topped with some fresh parm and you have yourself another meal. You can also add some seared chicken or white beans for some protein 🙂  You can’t let that delicious sauce go to waste.

    Baked Chorizo Chiles Rellenos

    It’s the New Year and it’s time to try and reign in all the indulgent eating we did during the holidays. So now my focus is on making healthy meals that are still fun and delicious (otherwise I’d go crazy). I was craving some cheesy Mexican food so I found a way to satisfy my craving without too much fat and calories. You can do this without meat and add more beans and veggies but I love any excuse to use chorizo. I’m careful about where I buy meats like chorizo but Whole Foods makes one thats delicious and I feel better about the ingredients in there. And instead of breading and frying these peppers as is customary, we will bake them. Still delicious, still cheesy, just a little healthier for you.

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    Ingredients:

    • 4 poblano peppers, washed, top cut off and seeds removed
    • 2 links chorizo
    • 1/2 cup or so of black beans
    • Ancho chili powder
    • 1 small red onion
    • chopped scallions
    • Fresh cilantro and oregano, chopped
    • 1/2 bag of Mexican cheese blend (would also be good with manchego cheese or reduced fat cream cheese if you really want that creamy texture)
    • Olive oil for sautéing

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    Instructions:

    Pre heat the oven to 375.

    Cut the chorizo out of the casing and put in a hot saute pan with olive oil and onions.

    imageLet the meat brown a bit and using a spoon gently break apart the meat. Add salt, pepper, chili powder and incorporate well. When it’s cooked through and the onions are softened add your fresh chopped herbs and shut the heat off.

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    Pour into a bowl and add the cheese. Mix well.

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    Using a small spoon, stuff each pepper and place on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s bubbly and the peppers are cooked. I put my broiler on the end to give the pepper a nice char.

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    Dig in! This is great leftover and you can bring it to work for lunch the next day.

    Huevos Rancheros

    Mexican breakfast eggs, as my husband calls it, or otherwise known as huevos rancheros is one of my favorite brunch selections. Some combination of eggs, beans, tortilla and salsa… yum. There’s endless ways to make this dish and mine is simply based off what I had in my kitchen. You can certainly make it for breakfast but “breakfast for dinner” is an even better weeknight option – cheap, easy and usually pretty fast. This meal also happens to be incredibly delicious.

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    Ingredients:

    -Eggs

    -1 can black beans

    -1 can pinto beans

    -Fresh cilantro

    -1 can fire roasted tomatoes

    -1 onion

    -3 cloves garlic

    -Chicken broth

    -1 lb flank steak (an optional ingredient but Kyle reeeally wanted steak that night and I reeeeally wanted eggs)

    -1 red chili pepper (use any hot or sweet pepper you like)

    -Ancho chili powder

    -Salt & pepper

    -Fresh head lettuce, chopped in thin strips (washed and refrigerated with a paper towel to get it crispy)

    -Crumbled feta or cotija cheese (whatever you can find in the grocery store)

    -Olive oil

    Instructions:

    If you are using flank steak, season well with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, garlic powder and rub into the steak with a tiny bit of oil just to moisten it before you throw it on a hot grill. Cook on the first side about 7 minutes and then flip the steak over. Take it off when it reaches your desired temperature (I like it medium) and cover it with tin foil to let it rest while you make the rest of your meal. This will help suck all the juices into the meat and will leave you with a tender and juicy steak!

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    Strain both cans of beans and add to a pot with fresh cilantro. You can add lime juice if you have limes or I added some chicken broth.

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    I wanted to make the texture a bit like refried beans even though isn’t your traditional refried bean recipe. I mashed the beans up with a spoon and then I poured the flank steak juices on the plate to add some flavor to the beans. (Usually refried beans are cooked in bacon fat)

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    Add your can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, pepper and onions to a pot. Season with salt & pepper and cook on medium heat.

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    Puree the mixture with your hand mixer. I left mine as more of a chunky salsa rather than puree everything together to a smooth sauce.

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    In a hot pan, heat up some vegetable oil to fry your tortillas. Cook them on both sides until they crisp up and start to brown.

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    Top the tortilla with the bean mixture and then sliced flank steak.

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    Then add your salsa.

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    Finally, fry up an egg on medium to high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over easy and place on top of your salsa.

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    Finish with shredded lettuce and feta or cotija cheese.

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    Cod Fish & White Bean Cakes

    I want to say up front that the thought of a “fish cake” is really unappealing to me. But don’t let the name of this recipe prevent you from trying it.

    We bought some fresh cod at Whole Foods and wanted to make something different than your typical pan-seared fish with lemon and capers. While fried fish and chips or fried fish cakes are delicious, they really aren’t something we should eat on a regular basis. I searched Pinterest for cod fish recipes and countless photos of golden brown, deep-fried fish appeared. The photos of these cod cakes, despite the fact that their name irks me, caught my attention. By substituting white beans for the potatoes and a pan sear instead of a deep fry, we cut a lot of fat and carbs from this dish–but we didn’t lose out on flavor. This recipe is a perfect compliment to a summer night and a glass of wine!

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    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb fresh Cod
    • 1/2 can white cannelini beans
    • 1/2 red onion
    • 1/2 sweet onion
    • 2-3 stalks of celery
    • 1-2 cloves of garlic
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 jar sweet pimiento peppers
    • 2 TBSP whole wheat panko bread crumbs
    • 2 TBSP Italian bread crumbs
    • 1 egg
    • Fresh chopped parsley
    • 2 dashes hot sauce (I used Franks)
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Oil to spray on pan (I use a mixture of 75% canola and 25% olive oil)

    Instructions:

    Put your fish in a pan with about 1/2 inch of water. Put the lid on and cook at a low boil for roughly 5 minutes so the fish turns white. You don’t want to over cook it, just steam it so you don’t have to sear your cakes until the fish cooks through.

     

    Chop your ingredients.

    Cod

    Saute in a pan for 2-3 minutes. (Don’t forget to salt them!)

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    Set them aside to cool.

    Place your beans and parsley in a food processor to give them a rough chop. You want them to have somewhat of a pasty texture so it holds the mixture together (remember we are substituting for potato).

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    Place all of your cooled ingredients in a mixing bowl (fish, beans and vegetables) with the breadcrumbs.

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    In a separate bowl, mix the egg with the hot sauce and add to your fish mixture. It’s okay if you leave a little egg in the bottom of the bowl. (I used that later to brush on the cakes before cooking.) Mix gently so not to break the fish up too much. You want to see healthy-sized chunks of fish in there! (Or at least I do).

    Form the mixture into patties and place in the refrigerator to let them rest. I suppose you could cook them right away but they may fall apart on you.

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    I opted to brush the cakes with leftover egg and hot sauce mixture and sprinkled some extra bread crumbs just to form a nice crust on the outside.

    Sear on both sides until you get a nice brown crust. Mine did fall apart a little, I think due to the fact that I didn’t purée the bean mixture well enough.

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    Last minute I realized I wanted a dipping sauce of some kind. I took some reduced fat sour cream and threw in some franks red hot sauce and added some cut up chives. It ended up pairing great but whatever sauce you want to use is fine! A tartar sauce would work great, too. Enjoy.