{Skinny} Bang Bang Shrimp

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Hello everyone! I feel like I haven’t updated in ages. Things around here have been a bit hectic lately. Not to mention that I  briefly went through a weird phase where I lacked inspiration and motivation to cook, and when I did, I often didn’t enjoy whatever I made. This was especially strange for me because I usually love cooking and love eating. I think I chalked it up to being busy and stressed, and have been feeling back to normal the past week – phew!

Anywho, I had a few ideas of what to post today but when I saw shrimp on sale at the store I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Recently I’ve seen a lot of recipes for “Bang Bang Shrimp” and they always catch my eye. It’s a dish that includes crispy, breaded shrimp served with a creamy and spicy chili sauce. This dish is served at Bonefish Grill, a restaurant I’ve never been to and therefore have not actually tried the original recipe, but I could tell from the ingredients that I would love it.

I was even more inspired when I saw a lightened up version of the dish over at Cooking for Keeps. I followed this recipe pretty closely, though I opted for Greek yogurt over mayo for the sauce and used regular flour instead of almond flour. I also added a bit of teriyaki sauce which I thought bumped the sauce up a notch. The sauce is rich and flavorful, all while being light on calories. Breading the shrimp is optional – I very lightly breaded mine in flour and cooked them in a bit of coconut butter which was delicious!

I also love this recipe because it looks fancy, but takes less than 30 minutes to make! You can used thawed frozen shrimp and store-bought chili sauce to make the recipe even easier, and I bet you nobody will know the difference. :)

Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp
adapted from Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp with Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce on Cooking for Keeps

Ingredients:
serves 2

  • 1/2 lb large, raw shrimp (about a 12-count), peeled & de-veined
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 Tbsp oil (I used coconut, but olive or canola work too)
    For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (I like Frank’s brand)
  • 1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tsp Sriracha (2 if you like things spicy)
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • Rice to serve on the side

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Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and whisk. Set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat your oil over medium heat. Toss the shrimp in the flour and gently place in the hot oil. Fry on each side for 1 – 2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and breading is crispy.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and pour the sauce over the shrimp. Cook for an additional minute or so, until the sauce is hot. Serve over rice and optional veggie, and enjoy!
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Start by preparing your sauce!

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Lightly coat your shrimp in flour

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Frizzle up your shrimp in the hot oil

 

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It will look something like this when it’s finished cooking!

 

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Pour sauce over your shrimp, cook for another minute, and it’s ready to serve!

 

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:)

Healthy Secret-Ingredient Brownies

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There are two desserts out there that I almost never tire of and could always find room for: soft, chewy, traditional chocolate chip cookies, and fudge brownies. I don’t often allow myself to eat these sweets, but when I do I find that they always hit the spot.

I started bookmarking and reading a lot of recipes for healthy brownies over the past year. Some recipes make small substitutions, like swapping out oil for applesauce or using honey in place of sugar. Some recipes use seemingly odd ingredients like avocado or black beans. Today, I bring you a healthy, chocolatey, moist brownie that doesn’t include any avocado, no bananas, no applesauce, no dates, and absolutely no beans of any kind.

So what is the secret ingredient? you may be wondering. It is… (drumroll)…

Prunes!

Okay, before you turn your nose up in disgust and stop reading, hear me out for a minute. Prunes have a reputation for being a food only old ladies or babies eat because of their high fiber content, and a lot of people assume they’re foul-tasting and not something they’d enjoy. To me, a prune tastes like a cross between a raisin and a dried cherry and I think a lot of people would actually like them if they tried them out. And if people can stick things like black beans or avocados in their dessert recipes, surely we can handle a dried fruit in a brownie recipe.

Recently I was thinking to myself that prunes would go well with chocolate, like a chocolate covered raisin, or how chocolate Larabars use pureed dates with cocoa powder that end up tasting similar to fudge brownies. I found this recipe for Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork and the ingredient list was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

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This brownie recipe includes pureed prunes instead of oil, less than a half cup of your favorite natural sweetener, ground oats instead of white flour, and only 1 (optional!) tablespoon or butter or coconut oil in the whole recipe. They are moist, chewy, super chocolatey, and have more of a cake texture. I almost considered calling it cake instead of brownies, but at the same time they’re so flavorful that they don’t need icing or frosting. I have always considered myself to be a fudge brownie kind of person, but these brownies are just darn good.

Here’s where the recipe gets a little weirder. You can certainly puree the prunes yourself with a bit of water or even juice, but to get the best texture for these brownies, it’s recommended to use baby food prunes. I can hear your stomach churning and your skepticism growing, but think about it: baby food prunes are really just prunes that have been professionally pureed and any skin or tough parts are strained out. They have a silky texture and will blend right into your brownies without anyone noticing. The brownies do have a slightly fruity flavor, but I find that it goes well with the recipe. They were even approved by my picky-eater roommate Kathleen, and Dan, who prefers traditional recipes without weird ingredients.

So as you browse the baby food aisle at your grocery store, without children of your own or children who are grown, you may wonder what you’re doing with your life, as I did. But just trust me. These brownies are good.

Healthy Secret-Ingredient Brownies
adapted slightly from Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork

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Ingredients:
makes 16 2-inch brownies

  • 3/4 cup oats, measured and then ground into flour (any type of flour will work here)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cococa powder (I used half dark chocolate/dutch and half regular)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetener of your choice (sugar in the raw, coconut sugar, or regular ol’ white sugar)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pureed prunes (2 5-oz containers of baby food works perfectly)
  • 1 egg, whisked (or 1 Tbsp ground chia or flax seeds for vegan)
  • 1.5 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate

*If using stevia or other concentrated sweetener, be sure to follow baking directions on the package as a little goes a long way.

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Ingredients for the brownies…

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Plus common baking ingredients…

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And the secret ingredient!

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You can use prunes with apples if you feel better about it.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray an 8×8″ baking dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients: oat flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients: pureed prunes, egg, honey, vanilla extract, oil/butter, and whisk. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate.
  4. Pour into your greased baking dish and bake for 17 – 18 minutes (18 was perfect for mine), or until a toothpick inserted into brownies comes out clean. Let cool before serving, and enjoy with a glass of milk or ice cream!

Note: Because these brownies are so moist and slightly sticky, they may require extra care when slicing them. Chilling them before cutting will make for neater brownies, but I was too anxious to do so, which is why my brownies are rather messy looking.

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:)

 

 

Spicy Red Lentil Dip (Hummus)

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Spring weather has FINALLY arrived in Massachusetts and it is glorious. This winter was the longest, coldest, snowiest winter I can remember and it was starting to feel like spring would never come. Yesterday was a nice 65 degrees and I spent the day with Mirva, Naomi, Emily and Brian enjoying the weather and playing cornhole.

This Spicy Red Lentil Dip was inspired by a delicious hummus I picked up recently – Eat Well Embrace Life Spicy Yellow Lentil Hummus. It was so tasty but a little bit pricey so I decided to whip up my own. I love lentils and of course hummus, and find that sometimes dips made with beans other than chickpeas are just as good (if not better) than the traditional stuff.


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I couldn’t find yellow lentils (I’ve actually never seen them before, though I did consider buying yellow split peas instead), so I picked up some red lentils. Red lentils have a mild, nutty flavor and are not quite as earthy-tasting as brown or green lentils. I threw in all the ingredients you would put in hummus – tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt – but I read recently that hummus literally translates to “chickpeas” in Arabic, which is why I’m calling this a dip instead of hummus (even though it’s the same concept).

In addition to the base of the recipe, I added a red fresno pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and smoked paprika to spice up this dip and bring it to life. I love how the lentils blend up super smooth and make a perfect texture for the dip. I love lentils not only because they’re tasty, but they’re also loaded with protein – 1/4 cup of dry split red lentils has 13g! Perfect for vegetarians/vegans, or for those looking for a filling snack.

Spicy Red Lentil Dip
makes ~2 cups


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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry split red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste – I love Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
  • juice from half of one large lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño or red fresno pepper (use half for less heat)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp mild hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper powder
  • salt, to taste
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Your ingredients, plus the spicy pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and cook red lentils according to package directions. They typically take about 15 minutes to cook. They may start to break down and become mushy or all of the water may not evaporate/be absorbed – this is okay and will make blending easier.
  2. While you’re letting your lentils cool, combine your tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and hot pepper in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  3. Add in your lentils, hot sauce, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt and continue blending, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary, until well-combined and smooth. Taste and adjust any spices/salt to your liking. Serve with pita chips, carrot sticks, or on a sandwich and enjoy!
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Cook your lentils according to package directions. When they’re finished, they’ll look something like this.

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In your food processor, combine the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and hot pepper. Pulse until smooth.

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Add the cooked lentils to your food processor and pulse until smooth.

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And there you have delicious & nutritious, creamy, Spicy Red Lentil Dip! :)

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Roasted Beet & Chickpea Veggie Burgers

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Last year I made veggie burgers for the first time, and while I enjoyed the flavors of the chickpeas, lentils, and curry, I found that they were a bit dry and just didn’t have the burger consistency I was looking for.

Fast forward to this year, when I stumble upon a recipe that claims to be the “best-ever” veggie burgers and I’m instantly intrigued as soon as I hear the ingredients list: Roasted beets, beans, brown rice, caramelized onions (!!), and oats. I’ve come to love beets over the past year or so, and caramelized onions are one of my favorite foods of all time. So I decided to put these veggie burgers to the test and I was not disappointed!

To be honest, I’ve only tried a few other veggie burgers to compare these to, but I still think this recipe is a winner. The roasted beets keep the burgers moist and sweet, the onions bring a nice savory flavor, and then there’s mustard and even diced prunes (don’t let them scare you!) for tanginess. The burgers use ground oats rather than bread crumbs, and just one egg to keep them together. I used a combination of chickpeas and cannellini beans rather than black beans because I prefer the flavor, but any type of bean will work. The original recipe also says it makes only 6 burgers, but I was able to make about 9 or 10 good-sized burgers.

These burgers do take a bit of prep work, and the “meat” needs to be chilled, but I think if you cook the beets and brown rice ahead of time, you’ll be able to whip these burgers up in no time. I really enjoyed these veggie burgers and I’m excited to share them with all my veggie and meat-eating friends alike out there!

Roasted Beet & Chickpea Veggie Burgers
slightly adapted from Best-Ever Veggie Burger on The Kitchn

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Ingredients:
makes 9 – 10 burgers

  • 1 lb. fresh beets (about 3 large ones)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or cannellini beans)
  • 1/4 cup prunes, chopped
  • 2 – 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Spices:
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder, or cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper for extra heat
    • 1/2 tsp dried basil
    • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg, whisked
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Your ingredients (ignore that pesky jalapeno…)

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And your spices

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prepare your beets by washing them and removing skin with a vegetable peeler. Chop them into large chunks and toss them with about 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Place in a small baking dish and roast for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes, until they are nice and caramelized and can be easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to let cool.
  2. While your beets are roasting, cook your brown rice according to box directions and also begin caramelizing your onions. Heat diced onions over medium heat with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt, stirring every few minutes, until they are golden-brown. Add minced garlic in the last 2 – 3 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. Pulse your oats in a food processor until they resemble a fine powder and set aside.
  4. Combine beans, prunes, scallions, olive oil, mustard, and lemon juice in food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, but not to the point of being puréed. (If you have a small food processor, you may have to do this in batches.) Remove from food processor and place in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Once your beets are cooled, grind them up in your food processor until shredded. Place in mixing bowl with beans, and then add in your rice, spices, ground oats, and egg. Stir until well combined, and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. After the burgers are chilled, form into patties about 3 inches wide. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan, and cook the burgers for 3 – 5 minutes on each side. I found that covering them for half of the cook time helped to get the inside of the burgers cooked faster and more thoroughly.*
  7. Once burgers are finished cooking, serve on a bun with your favorite toppings, or atop a salad and enjoy! I loved them topped off with Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing, spinach, and arugula.

*For an extra crispy crust, sprinkle Panko breadcrumbs on the burgers before cooking!

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Begin by peeling, chopping, and roasting your beets. Don’t the peeled beets have a cool design on them?

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While the beets are roasting, cook your rice to box directions and caramelize your onions. When they’re done they’ll look something like this.

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Combine your rinsed and drained beans, prunes, scallions, mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped.

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Pulse your beets separately until finely shredded.

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Combine your shredded beets with the bean mixture and rice, along with your spices. Stir in oat flour and eggs until well combined.

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Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Notice how it resembles ground beef?)

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Once mixture is chilled, form into patties and frizzle up in your frying pan with olive oil and optional breadcrumbs.

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Enjoy burgers with your favorite toppings! Here I have mine on a Sandwich Thin with Goddess dressing, red onion, and spinach. Bon appétit!

Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Breakfast Muffins

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Hello! If you are reading this, it means I’m still alive.

In all seriousness, though, this long dark winter has really put a damper on my blogging. The past few weekends I’ve planned out recipes, cooked and photographed them, only to have the clouds come out and take away any good lighting that my basement apartment gets. I’m so glad the days are starting to get longer and daylight saving time is next Sunday!

The next few weekends also may be a bit busy for me, as my dad and Robin’s wedding is coming up in two weeks, as well as Naomi’s 2nd birthday! Throw in Jill’s birthday and a trip to Mohegan Sun with Dan and March is looking like a pretty busy month. Which is a good thing because March usually seems like such a long and dreary month filled with waiting for the bad weather to pass and for spring to arrive.

These muffins were inspired by a different type of muffin I made recently. Last week I baked up these Skinny Peanut Butter Banana Muffins and they were soo good. I found they made the perfect mid-morning snack, or even a light dessert. As much as I loved those sweet muffins, I was thinking I’d like to have a more savory muffin that I could eat as my breakfast and wouldn’t leave me feeling weak and shaky like sugary breakfasts often do.

So I searched around for savory breakfast muffins and found just the recipe I was looking for: Cottage Cheese and Egg Muffins with Ham and Cheddar. I wanted a muffin that had a high egg-to-flour ratio, some savory flavors like bacon or ham, and that were healthy enough to eat for breakfast on weekdays. I love that this recipe includes cottage cheese because it’s a great way to add protein and to keep the muffins moist.

I stayed fairly true to the base of the recipe, but made a few adjustments to suit my taste. I actually swapped out the cottage cheese for ricotta because that’s what I had and I prefer the texture, and I know ricotta is often used in pancake recipes. I used turkey bacon instead of ham, and regular all-purpose flour because I didn’t have almond meal (though I think cornmeal would also be a great substitution!). I added some red bell peppers for flavor and texture, and also bumped up the scallions and spices a bit.

These muffins are perfect for breakfast on the go, and are filled with protein to keep you satisfied for hours. The texture is like quiche meets muffin, and the flavors are fun but also mellow enough to eat every morning. You can definitely play around with the ingredients and get creative – broccoli and cheese would be delicious, or even spinach and feta! You can bake up a batch on the weekend and heat them up for breakfast during the week – so easy! I definitely see this recipe becoming a regular in my diet.

Turkey Bacon & Cheddar Breakfast Muffins
adapted from Cottage Cheese and Egg Muffins with Ham and Cheddar on Kalyn’s Kitchen

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Ingredients:
makes 1 dozen muffins (or in my case, 11.)

  • 6 slices of turkey bacon (Canadian bacon or ham would be great too)
  • 2/3 cup + 1/4 cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose – or almond or cornmeal)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (I used 1/4 and thought they could have used more)
  • seasoning of your choice (I used about 1/4 tsp each of smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup ricotta or cottage cheese (I used part-skim)
  • 1 Tbsp milk or water (the original recipe calls for 3 T of water, but I decreased it because of the extra moisture from the bell peppers. If you’re not using a fresh vegetable, use the original amount of 3.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
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Your ingredients (forgot to picture the bell pepper, naturally.)

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Your wonderful spices

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Cook your turkey bacon just until it’s almost crispy (you don’t want it too crispy for these muffins), about 5 minutes. While the bacon is cooking, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning in a large bowl.
  3. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese, and milk/water to the bowl and whisk again. Crumble the cooked bacon (make sure you let it cool a bit) into the bowl, and add in the peppers, scallions, and both cheeses. Stir together until well incorporated and spoon into your greased muffin tin, topping each off with a sprinkle of cheese if desired.
  4. Bake for about 16 – 18 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins turn golden and a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean. Let sit for a few minutes before serving, and serve with a glass of milk. (or ketchup and hot sauce if you’re like me!) Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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Begin by frizzling up your bacon.

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In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning together. Stir in ricotta, egg, and milk or water.

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Add in all of the fun stuff (bacon, cheese, scallions, and peppers) and stir again

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Your batter will be thick and slightly lumpy, but have no fear.

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Spoon the batter into your greased muffin tin, about 3/4 of the way full, and sprinkle with a bit of cheese on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 16 – 18 minutes.

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Your muffins will look something like this when they’re finished

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:)