Friday, January 27, 2012

Fennel and Parmesan Meatballs

Whether on pasta or on a toasty sub, the combination of meatballs and tomato sauce is one of my absolute favorites. My Fennel and Parmesan Meatball recipe can only be described as a knockout.  The fennel seed adds a touch of sweetness that compliments the salty bite of the Parmesan perfectly. I brown the meatballs on the stove top first then they finish cooking in the sauce, making them moist and adding even more flavorful. For best results, be sure to use my  Tomato Basil Sauce with Leeks and Mushrooms.

1 1/2 pounds 96% lean Ground Beef
1 1/2 teasoons Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Fennel Seed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 egg plus 1 egg white
6 Whole Wheat Melba Toast Crackers, crushed
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cups Tomato Basil Sauce with Leeks and Mushrooms (or any good quality tomato basil sauce)

Preheat a large skillet and the olive oil over medium heat. In a medium size mixing bowl combine the ground beef, salt, fennel, Parmesan, egg, crushed crackers, and oregano. Mix with hands until well combined (be sure not to over mix to avoid drying out the meat). Score the meat mixture into 4 equal sections then divide each of the 4 sections into 3 meatballs (12 meatballs total). Place meatballs into heated oil and brown the meatballs by gently turning them every few minutes, about 12 minutes total. Add tomato basil sauce to the meatballs, turn heat to high, and cover. As soon as the sauce begins to boil reduce to low heat and simmer for 20 more minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Serve with pasta, on a whole wheat roll, or simply solo.

Note: if you are making a homemade sauce with the meatballs, remove meatballs from pan after browning, make sauce with pan drippings, and add meatballs back in once sauce is ready to simmer to finish cooking.

Servings: 4
Serving Size: 3 meatballs plus 1 cup of sauce; 400 calories per serving (around 94 calories per meatball)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hearty Turkey and Lentil Soup

I first made this soup on a cold, snowy night for a girls-night-in dinner party. My girlfriends loved it and couldn't believe how healthy, filling, and delicious it was. It has quickly become my favorite soup to make because it's incredibly tasty, full of veggies, low in fat, and high in both protein and fiber. Try it just once and you'll be hooked.

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound Ground Turkey Breast
1 medium Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flake (optional, but highly recommended)
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and finly diced
8 cups low-sodium Chicken Stock
1 medium Zucchini, cut into big-bite size chunks
1 medium Red Bell Pepper, stem, seeds, ribs removed, cut into bite size chunks
1 cup dried Lentils
1 cup frozen Corn Kernals (fresh works too)
1 cup frozen Greenbeans (fresh works too)
1 14oz can Diced Tomatoes (choose a "no-salt added" variety)
1/2 cup packed Fresh Basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, divided

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and ground turkey breast, breaking up the meat and stirring occasionally as it cooks. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, red pepper flake, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Continue cooking until the turkey is cooked through. Add the chicken stock, zucchini, red bell pepper, and lentils to the pot. Cover with lid and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add frozen corn, frozen green beans, tomatoes, basil, and remaining tablespoon of salt. Continue simmering, covered, for at least 15 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Once lentils are cooked the soup is ready to enjoy.

Serving Size: 2 cups, 290 calories per serving
Tips and Hints: top soup with whole wheat Melba Toasts, parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of basil or serve with whole wheat baguette on the side

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes with Thyme

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes are surprisingly simple, yet super impressive, adding a touch of gourmet to any meal. Top these flavorful (basically fat-free!) cakes with lemony shrimp or a sunny-side-up egg and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan. My friends went crazy for these when I served them along side my Turkey and Lentil Soup. You may want to double the recipe because they'll go fast...I guarantee it.

1 head of Cauliflower
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme Leaves, removed from sprig
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Fat-Free Greek Yogurt

Remove the leaves and center stem of the head of cauliflower, then cut cauliflower  into small florettes (bite-size, but not so small that they'll fall through the holes of the collander). Place florettes into a medium-size sauce pan. Add chicken stock to cauliflower, cover with lid, and turn heat to high. When the stock begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain Cauliflower in a colander until completely dry and return to pan (reserve a couple tablespoons of the stock before draining). Add chopped thyme, salt, ground pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon of reserved chicken stock. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower mixture until smooth. You can also use a food processor, blender, or a Magic Bullet to blend the mixure (be sure to not over blend, you want the mixture to have some body). Add the egg to the mixture and mix in with a fork.
Preheat a large skillet to medium heat (preferably a non-stick skillet). When heated, spray pan with cooking spray. Spoon the mixture into the pan to make six evenly sized cakes (about 2/3 cup per cake). Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Gently flip the cakes and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. You may want to cook the cakes in two batches. Garnish cakes with a dollop of greek yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh thyme.

Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 cake, about 40 calories per cake
Tips and Hints:
To remove fresh thyme leaves from sprig, grasp the top of the sprig with one hand, then use other hand to gently pull down the length of the sprig in the opposite direction of the leaves' growth.
These cakes are very delicate so be gentle when handling.
If you don't have a non-stick skillet, use a half tablespoon of olive oil brushed on the surface of the skillet before cooking cakes (adds about 15 calories and a little "good" fat to each cake).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tomato Basil Sauce with Leeks and Mushrooms

Everyone must have a delicious and healthy homemade tomato sauce recipe in their repertoire. For me, this is the perfect one. It's unbelievably flavorful, low in fat and calories, simple, and versatile. The leek and mushroom combination is an incredible addition to the traditional flavors giving this sauce a subtly unique flavor. You can use this sauce on anything from pasta and spaghetti squash to chicken parmesan and lasagna so it's a good idea to always have a batch stashed in your fridge or freezer.

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium Leeks
5 ounces sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flake (optional)
2 14-ounce cans Diced Tomatoes (no salt added variety)
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves (approx. 2 sprigs)
1 cup packed Basil Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 teaspoons Sugar (preferably sugar in the raw)
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, preferably non-stick. Peal away the top layer of leaves and trim the very top of each leeks to remove the tough ends. Slice leeks lengthwise in 1/4 to 1/2 inch disks (should yeild about 1 1/2 cups sliced). Add leeks to the heated oil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt, red pepper flake, and garlic to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add all remaining ingredients to the leeks and mushrooms. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, uncovered. Cover skillet with lid and continue simmering for about 20 minutes.

Servings: 4 Serving Size: 1 cup, 120 calories per serving 
**Use this sauce in any recipe that calls for marinara or tomato sauce
**For a simple and healthy pasta dish, combine 1 1/2 cup cooked 100% Whole Wheat Pasta, 1 cubed and roasted eggplant, and 2 cups of sauce. Serves 2; 325 calories per serving
**The picture shown also features my Fennel and Parmesan Meatballs!