Guilt-Free Alfredo Sauce

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Once in a meeting at work, we were talking about eating healthy. (Okay, this has happened more than once – but I’m writing about one particular instance.) My coworker, Miranda, referenced her then-fiance-now-husband, Henry. “When I met him,” she said, “He thought fettuccine alfredo was healthy if it had broccoli in it.”

For whatever reason, this exchange stuck with me. I’m trained in health education, so I’m intrigued by what people do and don’t know about health (and, ultimately, helping them to better understand how to be and stay healthy).

In this case, Henry was acting on what he knew: broccoli is healthy, broccoli is in my fettuccine alfredo, therefore fettuccine alfredo is healthy. Also, fettuccine alfredo is creamy and delicious – why avoid it? For all you Henrys out there, here’s a heads up: alfredo sauce is usually made with loads of butter, heavy cream, and cheese, leading it to be pretty high in fat. That’s why it tastes so good. You’d need to eat a LOT of broccoli to balance that out.

Or, you could find a way to have your fettuccine alfredo and eat it too – without all the calories. I’ve always liked to live in a world where the tastiest, most delicious foods can be good for you too. Enter this recipe for a guilt-free alfredo sauce (inspired by Gimme Some Oven).

So what would Henry have done had he not met Miranda? Hopefully started reading nutrition labels. A serving of Bertolli Alfredo Sauce is 110 calories per quarter cup – this recipe is just 68. Enjoy!

Guilt-Free Alfredo Sauce

Yield: 10 servings. Serving size: ¼ cup. Per Serving: $0.31, 68 calories, 5g fat, 3g carbs, 4g protein.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat in a large saute pan. Make sure not to burn the butter or your sauce will end up an unappetizing brown/gray color – I learned this the hard way! Add 1 garlic clove, minced and cook for about 1 minute until garlic becomes fragrant. (Again, be careful not to burn it!) Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in 1 cup of chicken broth. Let the mixture come to a low simmer. Add 1 cup of low fat milk when it starts to bubble at the sides. Continue to whisk and stir, letting the sauce come to a consistency you like. Add ½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese to finish.

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To serve as pictured, slice cherry tomatoes in half and saute over high heat in a non stick pan until charred. Chop the broccoli and coat with olive oil, salt, and pper and saute over high heat in non stick pan until charred. Peel shrimp, coat with olive oil, salt and papper, and saute over high heat until pink. Toss with pasta and sauce and serve warm.

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The Honey Moon Phase – What I’ve Learned After 3 Months of Juicing

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I’m a little over 3 months into a new relationship… with my juicer.

As with any relationship, the first few weeks were very exciting. I tried all sorts of juices… green juice, carrot juice, even beet juice (not my best choice). Every week was a new adventure with a different fruit or vegetable. My very favorite juice to make is fresh orange juice (pictured here). Simple, yes, but it’s irresistibly good. Never will I ever again buy Minute Maid. Nothing beats a glass of fresh, cold orange juice with breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning.

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Three months later, my juice experimentation has slowed, but I’m still loving this new addition to my life. It has become staple appliance in my kitchen, used more frequently than most of my other plug in appliances (my poor blender, rice cooker, and kitchenaid are starting to feel neglected). While I’m certainly still in the honey moon phase, I’m hoping to ride this wave for a while. I’ve only had my juicer for 3 of the coldest, dreariest months of the year – and in just a few more months my farm share will start stocking my kitchen with fresh vegetables eager to be juiced.

This 3 months has taught me a lot – so for all of you newbie or soon-to-be juicers out there, here’s some tips, myths, and general advice:

  • Juicing is pretty expensive. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I’ve surrended. Juice is not a meal replacement (for me, at least, since I can never get more than a day into a cleanse). I treat juice an addition to my diet, like an extra snack. So everything I juice is purchased in excess of what I have to buy anyway to, you know, eat. I love a good deal so I like to think I’m a pretty savvy juicer regardless, which brings me to my next point…
  • Choose a cheap veggie that holds a lot of juice as a base. Vegetables like celery and cucumber are relatively inexpensive and produce a lot of juice, and you can add tastier ingredients (like, kiwi, strawberries, or apples) in smaller quanitites. Choosing a less expensive base can make your more expensive ingredients go further.
  • Juicers aren’t that hard to clean. The number one complaint I heard from juicers was that it’s a pain to clean up. I have a slow masticating jucier, and I have to say it is super easy to clean. The juicing parts come right off of the base and you can very easily hand wash them in soap and water. They are even dishwasher safe. (On the other hand, this type of juicer takes more prep time – apples must be peeled and cored, for example.)
  • Think about color when you build a juice. It really does matter. I made a watermelon cucumber juice which tasted delicious, but was a weird muddy pink color because of the green from the cucumber. Also, peeling can change the color of a juice. For example, peeled carrots have a brighter color than carrots that are juiced straightaway.
  • Juice will keep for 2-3 days. Some people (juice purists, we’ll call them) will insist that you must drink juice the same day you juice it. People like me, who can’t juice every day, will juice a big batch that will last for a few days. After that starts to taste and smell different.
  • Apples, limes, and ginger make everything taste good. Seriously, everything.

Here’s to a healthy, happy lifetime of juicing! Bottoms up!

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Settling In to Fall

DSC_0693Although the official first day of fall is still a week away, there’s no denying that it’s already here. That autumn chill is in the air, leaves are just starting to turn, and it’s darker and darker each morning when I wake up. It’s sad to see summer go, but part of this transition is comforting. Fall is about beginnings – for many (and me this year) it’s time to go back to school, which is a natural transition time. We’ll all take fewer vacations in the next 3 months, meaning we all settle in where we are at home. It’s rather nice when you think of it that way.

As a friend recently put it – summer is about family and fall is about friends. We probably all spend more time with our friends in the fall than in the summer. Summer is full of family reunions and vacations, and fall is more community focused, through watching sports events, going apple picking, dressing up for Halloween. It’s a great time to connect with your larger family in the community around you.

So, in honor of everything fall has to offer (such as apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin flavored everything, boots, sweaters – do I sound cliche yet?), I’m sharing three previous posts that remind me why this season is so great.

  1. 4 Tips for Soup Season – how to make the most of the cooler weather and fall vegetables
  2. Butternut squash soup – put those tips to good use (plus a story about that time Evan read my diary)
  3. Will Run for Pie – a reflection on one of my favorite fall traditions, the NMH Pie Race (bonus: my simple apple pie recipe)

What are you excited about this fall?

Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

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Food trend alert: shakshuka. I’ve seen this traditionally Middle Eastern egg dish popping up everywhere. I first laid eyes on it on Instagram; someone leaning over the stove, wearing an apron, cracking eggs into a pan of tomato sauce. I was insta-trigued – what was this mystery dish? Then I spotted it again, this time on Plated’s Instagram feed, and finally learned what the dish actually was. Then, a girlfriend forwarded me this New York Time’s article, saying that she and her boyfriend had made it over the weekend (while reading the Financial Times and drinking mimosas – so posh). I was convinced – had to try it. Because I hate following recipes, I made my own version.

Since I was in tomato overload last week, I had a low bar for giving this recipe a try – what else was I to do with all of that tomato sauce? I instantly realized that the hype was real. This dish is easy to prepare, hearty, and can hold up at any time of day. I made it for dinner last night and it was great. I have no idea what a traditional Shakshuka chef would say about this recipe, but it worked for me. (According to Wikipedia, variations of this dish are popular in Moroccan, Algerian, Israeli, Egyptian, Libya, and Tunisian cuisines. As described in the New York Times article, it’s often served at Passover.) The feta added a saltiness to the tomato sauce that was countered perfectly by the cilantro, and the eggs melted in my mouth since they were poached slowly in the sauce. YUM.

As proven by it’s popularity in many different cuisines, this dish is easy to adapt based on your taste. You could add some spices, like cinnamon or cumin, to the tomato sauce and get a totally different flavor profile. Add some different vegetables to the tomato sauce, or try a different cheese – there are all sorts of options here to customize this to your preference. Then have your friends over and impress them with your new favorite dish. (Don’t forget the mimosas!)

Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $5.88, 362 calories, 13g fat, 27g carbs, 16g protein.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat up 1.5 cups of tomato sauce (I used my basic tomato sauce made with farm fresh heirloom tomatoes) in an oven proof saute pan (I used cast iron, but a stainless steel can work too). Use a smaller sized pan so the tomato sauce is at least half an inch deep and fills the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a smaller pan, double the recipe (the more, the merrier). When the sauce is warm and starts to bubble, crack two eggs into opposite sides of the pan Turn off the heat and top with 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and take it out when the eggs are cooked to your liking (I like medium cooked yolks, so I took it out around 9 minutes). Let cool for 5-10 minutes, top with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and serve with crusty bread or a toasted English muffin.

Kale Caesar Salad & Raw Chocolate Pudding

Hello! I’m so honored to be the first guest-poster on Cook Like Kayla. As Kayla’s former work twin (no joke- our colleagues would get us confused) it seems fitting that I would be subbing in for her today. I’ve enjoyed watching this blog grow and I’m excited to be sharing with you today my two new favorite comfort foods turned healthy recipes.

As a background note, these recipes came from a place of pure desperation- crawling into my apartment after a long day in the hospital and wanting nothing more than to just stuff my face full of goodies and collapse into bed.  What’s amazing about these recipes is that they not only fill that comfort food craving but are also incredibly healthy and take only about 15 minutes to blend up in your Vitamix or blender. Say hello to your new long day pick me up.

Kale Caesar Salad

If you have any kale skeptics in your life, try this recipe on them. I guarantee they’ll change their minds.

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Place 1 garlic clove, 3/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and 2-4 anchovies (optional) into your Vitamix or other high-powered blender. Blend until fully emulsified, about 30 to 45 seconds.

Pour dressing over 1 head of kale, center stalks removed and sliced crosswise into fine ribbons. (Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, works best but any type of kale will do. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 preserved lemon (optional) on top of the salad and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Pudding

I know, avocado and pudding don’t sound like they should even be in the same sentence. Trust me, the avocado gives the pudding its texture, not its taste. Plus, what’s better than healthy chocolate pudding?!  Not too much.

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Place 1 avocado (seed and skin removed), 1 ripe banana4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons liquid sweetener (agave, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.), 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/2 cup water1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into your Vitamix or blender. Blend to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add more water as needed for consistency.

Chill until cold (or approximately the amount of time it takes you to eat your salad, if you’re me). If you’re really feeling ambitious, garnish with fresh berries.

Enjoy!

-Aka