Zucchini Linguine

I am a bad Clemenza. While I look more Italian than either of my brothers, I don’t eat like an Italian. Growing up, I hated some Italian classics. I didn’t like pizza (sadly, I outgrew that pretty quickly freshman year of college) or spaghetti and meatballs. Not all that much has changed and although I can really dive into a flavorful pasta dish, I don’t crave it.

Funnily enough, I love mock pasta. By using a vegetable peeler and creating zucchini ribbons, you can sauté or steam your way to a delicious and light meal.

Using zucchini pasta in lieu of regular pasta is such an easy way to lighten up meals and up your veggie in-take. Plus we are finally in zucchini season! While I am so sad to say goodbye to all of those delicious winter squashes, zucchini are great additions to a lot of meals.

A great topping to your mock pasta is a meal straight from Papa Clemenza. My dad is an amazing cook. He usually takes a dish and focuses on it until he has perfected it. His Shrimp Scampi is a great example. The original recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa but he has tweaked it in certain ways to make it truly amazing. It’s also a fairly simple meal that easily impresses. By serving the shrimp over “zucchini pasta” you can make it just a bit healthier and lighter. Here is the recipe:

Shrimp Scampi over Zucchini Linguine

Ingredients:

2 Zucchini

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined

1/2 cup of white wine

3/4 cup plus 1 Tblsp of chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 lemon, zest grated

lemon juice (1lemons)

1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Salt

Using a vegetable peeler, peel your zucchini into ribbons. Make sure you turn the zucchini ever so slightly after each peel to evenly shred the squash evenly. Put your squash spaghetti aside.

In another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Careful not to burn the garlic. Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove the shrimp once cooked.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine to pot and bring to simmer. Add 3/4 cup of chicken broth. sprinkle red pepper flakes and again bring to a simmer. Add lemon juice & zest and then remove from the heat. Pour shrimp into the sauce mixture and toss to combine.

Sauté the zucchini in a tablespoon of broth for about 5 minutes or until soft.

Serve shrimp and sauce over the zucchini linguine and sprinkle with parsley.

Serve & devour!

A Good Friday

Great day off! I’m going to be trying really hard to not overeat on Easter (Clemenza’s do holidays in a BIG way), plus Passover on Monday with Mikey’s family was choc full of deliciousness. I wanted to make sure I got in plenty of exercise today while I had the time. I planned on sleeping in but naturally woke up at 7 (damn you, internal alarm clock!). I went to the gym and decided to run for the first time in weeks, just doing 2 miles of sprinting and jogging intervals and then 30 minutes on the elliptical. I stopped home for a delightful green monster and then headed back out to finally check out the yoga studio two blocks from my apartment (meaning I left the house to exercise twice before my lovely boyfriend even got out of bed…and he did not have the day off).

I have tried to get into yoga in the past. In college, I went regularly for a semester for gym credit and I loved it. Since then, I’ve taken a class here and there but I didn’t have that desire to go back for more. I decided I’d rather spend that time burning calories doing cardio.

I’ve decided to re-visit yoga and had a wonderful basic class for 90 minutes this morning. I didn’t love every minute- especially the chanting in the beginning (I’m not much of a chanter), but I felt much better afterwards. I bought a 10 class card to push myself into going and I’m actually pretty excited about it!

Another thing I’m super excited about, while not nearly as healthy but still vital to my happiness and well-being, are these new cookies I found in Whole Foods, Gilbert’s Goodies:

While shopping yesterday, this girl was giving out samples of a cookie her and a friend make. I don’t have any issues with gluten or food allergies but cookies are my downfall, soI said bring on the samples, lady!

Bring on the samples she did. There were three types: Snickerdoodles, Sugar Cookies & Chocolate Chip. Delicious and they have great stats for a sweet treat- 4 (smallish) cookies pack 150 calories with all natural & minimal ingredients.

I always feel bad taking a sample (or 3…) and listening to the spiel on the product and just walking away. I took a bag of snickerdoodles, kind of intending to put it back later in my travels. Well, surprise surprise, the cookies stayed safely tucked in my basket.

Today I crumbled two of these cookies over some Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla extract. It was a delightful treat and I definitely encourage everyone to try these cookies if you see them!

Have a great weekend!

Salsa Turkey Burgers

I like to experiment with my diet, figuring out how my body reacts to not only different exercises, but different foods as well. Throughout the years, I’ve gone through phases of tracking calories and other nutrients. I noticed that I am constantly lacking in protein. Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate protein in almost all meals in my day. I try to pair my morning muffin/bar with yogurt, or I’ll throw a peanut butter spoon into my oatmeal. I’ve definitely noticed I stay satisfied for longer eating this way.

Dinner can be harder because I often don’t feel like cooking meat or fish but usually something like yogurt won’t satisfy me (and I don’t really like to do tofu or meat substitutes because of all of the processing). I’ve been adding beans to more meals and trying to up the protein in that way, but yesterday I was really craving a burger for some reason. It could have been that the sun finally broke through this cold, gray weather (I’m trying really hard to come to terms with NY’s lack of spring…it’s not working). I decided to keep it lean with ground turkey (although I’m not against beef and a big ol’ gloppy cheeseburger is actually my idea of heaven).

In life, I try to keep things simple. I’m no chef and I’m still finding my way in the kitchen. Plus, after work I don’t feel like making a fuss for a fancy meal but I don’t want to compromise flavor. These burgers are so simple and delicious and I paired them with some baked sweet potato “chips” that I made by slicing some sweet potatoes thinly and roasting under the broiler- under a watchful eye!

I added a big cup full of fresh salsa from Whole Foods to a pound of ground turkey and shmushed together with my hands. I also tossed in about ¼ cup of chopped onions and a dash of garlic powder for good measure. I formed 4 small-regular sized patties and made one Man Burger for Mikey. For his burger, I made two small patties and put Mexican blend cheese in the middle before cooking. It was quite the huge burger and sadly, he devoured it before I could get a picture of the cheese oozing out.

I opted to eat mine over a bed of baby spinach topped with grilled onions and guacamole on the side. Yumm!

Salsa Turkey Burgers:

1 lb ground turkey

about 1 cup of fresh salsa

1/4 cup diced onions (optional)

dash of garlic powder (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Heat pan ver medium heat. Form turkey mixture into balls and flatten into patties. Heat for a bout 6 minutes on each side.

Sweet Potato Love

If you know me at all, you know that I tend to seriously exaggerate everything. I’m obsessed with 5 million things at once (roasted broccoli, Bryan Greenburg, Pure Food & Wine, red grapes, Mad Men, and reality tv…just to name a few). Everything is amaaaazing (plus or minus a few a’s). I don’t even realize I’m overdoing it until someone reminds me that no, frozen pineapple tidbits are not the best thing that have ever happened to me (although they are quite delightful). So if I’ve already said I’m obsessed about a few things up to this point, you have to understand that all obsessions pale in comparison to my love for sweet potatoes.

This may be because I didn’t even eat this beautiful orange spud until about 2 years ago (so we’re still in somewhat of a honeymoon phase). I used to have a big problem with them, actually. They really only popped up in my life at Thanksgiving-y types of events or potlucks with marshmallows stuck in them. To me, it was just really strange to add those ingredients to a vegetable, no matter how starchy or un-veggie like they may be. Finally, at a dinner with friends, I had half a baked sweet potato, nothing on it but a tiny bit of butter.

I was a goner.

Yams and sweet potatoes have become a staple in my diet. They are high in beta-carotene which is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body (which helps with gorgeous skin). They contain complex starches in addition to vitamins and minerals and are very easy to digest while providing long lasting energy.

By eating a sweet potato with a bit of healthy fat, your body absorbs the beta carotene better. Here is a go-to dinner in my life:

1 sweet potato, steamed and mashed with a fork (add a bit of maple syrup or go in a different route and try salsa) with a side salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers drizzled with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Polenta Bake

Last night I wanted to make something using the rest of the pre-made polenta log that I had. I had a little more than half left and I also wanted to make something I could take as leftovers to work for the next couple of days.

I decided to dive in sans recipe and make a polenta bake. I started by slicing the log into thin rounds and layering them in a baking dish. The dish I used was smallish and I (unattractively) filled in the gaps of the rounds with small pieces of polenta. This would probably work better with polenta made fresh on the stovetop and then poured into a pan (but for the sake of convenience and cleaning out my fridge, I’ll take a messy casserole!). I put the polenta in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes.

I always have onions, garlic and spinach on hand and I can count on the pantry to have a few cans of different beans and diced tomatoes. I sautéed the onions until they started turning slightly brown. I then added some chopped garlic and cannellini beans (always rinse your canned beans to reduce sodium). After the beans were heated through and softening, I added the can of diced tomatoes, pouring out most of the juice from the can first.

I let this simmer for about 7 minutes before stirring in the spinach. I added 1 cup at a time, and when that would just start to wilt I added another handful. In all, I used about 3 cups of spinach.

Once the spinach was wilted, I removed the polenta from the oven and poured the veggie & bean mixture on top. I added the some crumbled feta and returned this to the oven for about 15-20 minutes- or until the cheesy gets a little gooey.

I’m happy to report that this mish mash was a success. Quick and easy, with tons of leftovers to pack for lunch. I love polenta for its versatility and next time I think I might make more of a Mexican casserole.

Polenta Bake

½-1 tube of polenta (adjust the thickness of polenta to your tastes)

4 cups spinach

1 medium onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, diced

1 can of cannellini beans

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 tsp oregano

1tsp basil

2-3 oz of shredded or crumbled cheese of your choice (I used feta)

I’m a Free Cone Day Failure

The weather yesterday was not exactly conducive to waiting in a long line outside the door for my free cone *sigh*. I was going to stick it out but I chose inappropriate footwear for the day and my flats were completely filled with 2 inches of water- making for a very cold, very uncomfortable wait.

I went home coneless.

But I am happy to report that a healthy a dessert has come in lieu of my short comings with Ben & Jerry’s.

Luckily, I always have bananas on hand (have you noticed most of my breakfast recipes contain banana?). When using bananas for dessert, I usually freeze them, dip them in melted chocolate and top with peanut butter (I’ll post those soon!) but today I wanted to try something new. Having read about banana “soft-serve” I was intrigued but skeptical. I froze up a banana and a half and then put it in the food processor until smooth. It was delicious, but didn’t taste like vanilla ice cream as everyone said it would. Next time I’ll try adding a dash of vanilla extract.  I decided to get a little creative and make some peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream. I threw in a couple of tablespoons of PB and some chunks of dark chocolate and processed some more. Oh. My. God.

I honestly will take a cup of PB Chocolate Chip Banana Soft Serve anytime, because it is SO much better for me and still satisfies my ginormous sweet tooth (although I still adore both Ben and Jerry).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Soft Serve

2 frozen bananas

2 Tblsp of peanut butter

1/2 oz dark chocolate chips (or chunks of a chocolate bar)

Mix bananas in a food processor until well blended. The add peanut butter and chocolate and mix for a minute or so longer.

I added a bit of Chocolate Liqueur on top!

Free Cone Day!!!

First things first, before we get the healthy stuff and the working out. It is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s. I went to college in Vermont (the home state of this fabulous ice creamery) and I was a Lead Scoop while in college (I knew I’d never get farther than that however, when my manager told me I had bad “scoop” technique and nearly gave myself carpel tunnel.)

I fully intend on indulging in a small cup of ice cream today and strongly encourage you to do the same (they take out the calories when it’s free).

And now I will put my healthy pants back on…

This morning I had that free personal training session with Mel. He was amazing and motivating and kept saying “that’s my girl” when I surprised both of us by not collapsing and dying after every move he made me do eleventy billion times. Tomorrow, Mel will be my worst enemy. I will not be his girl. Because I will not be able to move. 

Recently, I was having a conversation with girlfriends about how when you work out really hard, your body starts to shake absolutely uncontrollably. This is especially embarrassing when you are getting one on one attention from a trainer/instructor and everything is going fine and then it looks like you are being electrocuted. Try as you might to steady your limbs, the vibrations continue.

And oh things were shaking up this morning…I tried to laugh it off when on the fifth leg lift, my knees appeared to have a life of their own. Mel  explained that your muscles shake when they’re doing something they aren’t used to doing. So if you’re doing a new exercise, adding weights or increasing reps, your muscles quiver as they grab on to each other while lengthening and shortening. It means that you’re demanding more from your body that it’s normally capable of doing. And this definitely means that you’ll be sore the next day. No doubt about it.

In my case, I’m sore already so if you see me walking on Thursday (second day is always the worst), applaud my efforts because it won’t be coming easy.