Tick Tock Chop Chop: No Lettuce Salad

chop salad, no lettuce

Deliciously clean and refreshing while filling and low-cal

Let’s be honest – loose fitting sweaters, balloon tops and baggy pants are great to hide the winter weight. But, no one looks super sassy sporting these looks on a warm spring day, much less in a muumuu at the beach. Tick tock, people – It’s already April. It’ll be bikini weather before you know it!

So with summer and thus, swimsuit season, looming – it’s time to shed the January jowl, February fat and even the March mushiness.

Today I sought to create the perfectly filling chop chop salad – no lettuce included. I don’t love the lettuce.

Chop Chop! No Lettuce Salad (serves 4 as a side or 2+ as a meal)

Ingredients:

  • 1 english cucumber
  • 1 orange bell pepper -or yellow, or if you had to, red
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced gruyere cheese
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds – no salt
  • 1 piece prosciutto
  • Ray’s Low-Fat Italian salad dressing
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Peel about half of the cucumber – the skin of an english cucumber or hothouse cucumber is AOK to eat – but take a bit off anyway like this
low-fat salad, no lettuce salad

Just a simple peel

2. Dice the cucumber into small squares. i made 1/4 inch rounds and then cut 4 x 4 or 4×3 depending upon the slice size. Throw them in a bowl

cucumber salad

Cut rounds first. Then cut the rounds into 12-16 pieces each

cucumber dices, salad, no lettuce

Just a small simple dice

3. Do the same thing – core and dice a whole pepper. I bought two – but one was just fine. Throw the dices in the bowl with the cucumber

peppers, vegetarian salad, chopped salad

I just used the orange one…

4. Throw the shredded carrots in! I bought them already shredded since price-wise it was the same and saved me the work!

chopped salad, recipe, carrots

Carrot shreds – also filling

5. Dice up the Gruyere cheese and yes, then throw it in the bowl

gruyere cheese, chopped salad

You can save the rinds for stock – but I didn’t

chopped salad recipe, gruyere cheese

Cheese is protein – and filling

6. Mix it all up.

7. Option – take one slice of prosciutto and place it between two pieces of paper towel and microwave it on high for 1 minute

prosciutto, crispy, salad

BEFORE – The prosciutto adds salt and crunch and yum

prosciutto, crisped salad topper

AFTER: Crispy goodness

8. Portion out one serving into a bowl and top with 1 tsp of sunflower seeds and some of the crispy prosciutto

9. Top with 1 tbsp of Ken’s Steakhouse Italian dressing. Stir and enjoy

dressing, no lettuce salad

I like me some Ken’s

Chopped salad recipe

Chop Chop Salad in no time at all!

 

 

Listen, people – the clock is running. You can’t stop summer from coming and it’s time to get prepared. So Chop to it!

Pan-Fakes: Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

oatmeal banana pancakes, healthy pancakes

Looks like pancakes

Most of us have an alias that we use when say, ordering a latte at Starbuck’s or making a dinner reservation. Some may even have a fake name they use when meeting unwanted suitors out at a party or bar. Mine used to be Sylvia. I don’t know why, just was.

One of my best friend’s alias’ is Mimi Henderson – sounds like her real name, but isn’t -long story for another post. Fake-Name Mimi has two young boys and she likes to cook healthy for them. Like she made their baby food from organic-only ingredients when they were tiny little people. So, during my last visit when I went to her cupboard and found organic wheat or whole grain or something ‘pancake mix’ – I shouldn’t have been surprised. Moreover, when I prepared the ‘pancakes’ using said mix, I wasn’t surprised when the children did not enjoy them…not even one bite of a bit. They were icky, grainy, cardboardy and not like pancakes at all.

So, before my next trip to see Mimi and the boyz – I set out on a quest for a better fake pancake. And, I gotta tell you – these oatmeal, banana, healthier, non-dairy pancakes are pretty great.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Once you’ve blended and rested the batter in your KitchenAid blender, soak the pitcher immediately! The Quaker Oats get stuck to the sides and are tricky to remove.
  2. If you choose to serve with real maple syrup – please heat the syrup up – nothing worse than cold syrup on warm pancakes…even if they are fake
  3. Select perfectly ripe bananas as these will contribute to the creaminess of the pan-fakes

Pan-Fakes, The Healthy Dairy-Free Breakfast Treat (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Bananas – you want them perfectly ripe – not green, not brown

    quaker oatmeal pancakes banana pancakes

    Real Ingredients for PanFakes

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Quaker Oats – I have this giant container of quick 1-minute oats which are perfect
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder – not the same as Baking Soda

 

Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium/low. A 10 or 12 inch All-Clad one is perfect.

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender. I have an awesome KitchenAid blender – powerful thing it is!
kitchenaid blender non-dairy pancakes

In a KitchenAid blender Fake stuff happens

2. Blend…Use the mix setting first to combine everything and then use the puree setting to completely breakdown the little pieces of oats. I mean if you’re gonna fake it, fake it well.

3. Once blended until creamy and lump-free, let the batter sit for 15 minutes – it thickens during this resting period

gluten free pancakes breakfast

Super Blend it!

4. After the resting time – ladle into a non-stick pan. No need for spray or oil.

5. When the fake cakes bubble and dry around the edges, flip ’em. Another benefit to these fake cakes is that the first batch is pretty.

6. Continue to cook about a minute more until done.

gluten-free pancakes recipe

Unlike real pancakes – the first batch is pretty!

7. Serve with fake butter if that’s your jam…But, I figured it was fake enough already so I smothered with real butter and pure maple syrup.

healthy pancake recipe

Of course…I served with REAL butter and syrup

 

Eating healthier isn’t usually my thing – but I do like to test out a good fake. And, the next time Sylvia goes to see her bff, Mimi Henderson, Mimi’s boyz can finally have a PanFake they’ll enjoy.

 

Chicken Breasts Too Big? Perfect Chicken Possibilities.

I do a lot of yoga…sometimes right smack in the middle of the day. Why not? It’s good to get your zen on whenever you have 75 minutes to do so.

OK - it's called a Locust

OK – it’s called a Locust

Still…I’m never going to be that perfect poser…because, anatomically, some poses just aren’t meant for those with bigger breasts. I don’t know the names…but, there’s one pose that just doesn’t look right when I do it. Laying on your stomach you lift your arms, chest and legs off of the mat. It might be called a downward chimichanga – but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that those in the class with regular sized chests (C-cup or larger) don’t get as much loft…while we are lifting our chests and our backs are bowed in equal proportion to the smaller gals, our breasts may still be touching the mat. Doesn’t seem fair – we are actually working harder (think of the weight alone) and getting less satisfactory results.

So, I’m working on a Yoga for Bigger Boobies Book – stay tuned.

In the mean time, and speaking of breasts – here’s a great way to make perfect chicken breasts every time.

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. You can buy a family pack of breasts (as long as they are from a good quality brand) and individually (wrap tightly in Saran wrap and then place in ZipLoc baggie) freeze what you don’t need. I like the Fairway ones and they’re usually priced well.

    Family pack!

    Family pack!

  2. You can freeze herbs like Thyme and Rosemary for a super long time and don’t need to defrost them to use. As long as they’re still fragrant, they’re OK to use.
  3. If your (chicken) breasts are too big…you can butterfly them or even slice them into three equal cutlets

Perfectly Easy Chicken Breast (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large chicken breast – do you need to buy organic? No, no you do not. but go ahead if that’s your thing
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil – I’ve taken to buying the giant bottles at Fairway – not super space effective, but I transfer to my Sur La Table drizzler and keep the giant Fairway bottle out of sight
  • Photo Apr 09, 7 03 50 PMJane’s Krazy Mixed up Lemon Pepper – the flavored Jane’s are not as easy to find in NYC…I import it from Florida and have a dealer down there
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 bay leaf OR 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 TBSP Flour (optional – but, I like it)
  • 1 little, innocent pat of butter (also optional)

1. In a large soup or stock pot (any pot with a lid and a base area large enough for the chicken to lie flat) heat the olive oil and the little pat of butter over med/high heat

perfect chicken

Yes, you can leave the butter out – but it helps the chicken brown and adds flavor

2. Place the large breast on a cutting board covered with Saran Wrap

3. Butterfly the breast – here’s a GoodHousekeeping article on how to do that – I can’t figure out how to take pix while I am butterflying and pounding chicken…but, here’s a before, during and after:

Lay breast on cutting board covered in plastic wrap

Lay breast on cutting board covered in plastic wrap

Slowly start to run knife down the side of the breast and pull back as you do

Slowly start to run knife down the side of the breast and pull back as you do

Don't cut through. This is what it will look like when you're done

Don’t cut through. This is what it will look like when you’re done

4. Place the butterflied breast between two pieces of Saran Wrap and pound it – gentle now – to about 1/2 inch thick. Don’t beat the poor thing

Just enough to make the width of the chicken uniform

Just enough to make the width of the chicken uniform

5. Generously salt and Jane’s Lemon Pepper both sides and add about 1/2 tsp of thyme leaves

Salt, Jane's Lemon Pepper and Thyme Leaves

Salt, Jane’s Lemon Pepper and Thyme Leaves

6. Dredge the breast in flour

Just a gentle dusting of flour - optional, but I like it

Just a gentle dusting of flour – optional, but I like it – and most is going to shake off

7. Place the chicken in the pot and sear on one side for about 1-2 minutes – the edges of the chicken will turn slightly white and the cooking side will brown

Sizzling….just browning - not really frying

Sizzling….just browning – not really frying

8. Flip the chicken – IF, you prefer the flavor of bay leaf over the thyme, this is where you throw in your bay

Just a little brownness…for flavor and seals in moisture

Just a little brownness…for flavor and seals in moisture

9. Reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Allow to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes

This is a terrible picture of my copper core cookware from All Clad at exactly 7:07pm

This is a terrible picture of my copper core cookware from All Clad at exactly 7:07pm

10. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat or remove completely from the heat source and leave with lid on undisturbed for another 10 minutes

11. Remove from pot, slice and serve – maybe with some chick pea and black bean salad

Perfect chicken with bean salad

Perfect chicken with bean salad

Not all breasts are created equal. I’ve accepted that my downward chimichanga (AKA Locust pose) isn’t going to look perfect and that my lift will be less than some.

Fortunately, when it comes to chicken, if your breasts are too big, you can just butterfly and pound them out. Perfect chicken breasts are always possible.

Rise Up x3! Sweet Braided Easter Bread

bread, baking, easter

Braided Easter Bread

As Easter approaches, many of us ponder our faith. And, since this year Passover and Easter coincide, more of us are taking time to think about what it all means.

I went to a super Catholic university somewhere in the middle. Like a school where students were encouraged to attend any one of the 26, yes 26, masses held between Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 6pm. A university where the Old Testament was studied as a history and taught (at the time) by the sole interpreter of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A school where a gentleman caller might ask you on a date to mass – this was a big deal.

Back then, the student body was pretty homogenous – I think it was something in the neighborhood of 90+% Christian and of that over 80% Catholic. Being surrounded by mostly Catholics and beer, oh and nickel purple passions, led to some more than riveting late night philosophical discussions and revelations about Jesus.

One such late night post purple passions or quarter beers we engaged in the most philosophical of all discussions about God and Jesus. So many questions. We all wondered was Jesus really the son of God? Did he really rise from the dead?

After much discussion, my very wise roommate summed it up perfectly for all of us. She said: I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God or rose from the dead. All I know is that Jesus was a really good guy who said a lot of really good things that lasted a really long time.

Makes sense.

One thing that I am certain will rise – and rise three times – is this sweet, braided Easter bread.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Clean as you go and reuse your prep bowls – you can temperate your eggs in the same measuring up that you used to measure your flour
  2. Active Yeast and Instant Yeast can be used interchangeably – I know because I Googled it
  3. Set aside enough time as while Jesus took three days to rise, this bread requires 90 minutes to rise and then 45 minutes to rise again

Sweet Braided Easter Bread (serves a whole bunch of people of any faith)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cups Whole Milk – since I don’t drink milk, I keep little Stop and Shop single serve milks on hand – they last forever in your pantry until opened, and then a few days in your fridge
  • 5 TBSPs of Sugar – I use Domino Sugar – always have, always will
  • 1 3/4 TSPs of active dry yeast…but I couldn’t find that – so used Instant Yeast. Also – 1 3/4 TSPs is LESS than 1 packet…so, yes, you have to measure it out
  • 2 Large Eggs at room temperature – you must temperate your eggs
  • 2 1/3 C of Flour– now, the recipe actually called for 2 3/4 Cups…but I screwed up and used less – it was all fine – there was math, but an Easter Miracle made everything OK
  • 1 TSP Kosher Salt – because we welcome all religions – The Morton Salt is good and less expensive than those designer Kosher brands…
  • 1/2 C = 1 Stick unsalted butter softened and sliced…I only had salted butter so I just used less Kosher Salt
  • Some melted butter
that's all you need for an Easter miracle

that’s all you need for an Easter miracle – I didn’t even realize that the Yeast package was using my photo of perfectly braided bread

1. In a small sauce pan, gently heat the milk over a low flame to 115 degrees – this happened super quick – so watch it. I used a candy thermometer, but any thermometer will do

Gently heated to 115 degrees -I used my candy thermometer to check

Gently heated to 115 degrees -I used my candy thermometer to check

2. Pour the heated milk into a 2 Cup measuring cup and stir in 1 TBSP of sugar and add the yeast – check out my awesome tiny Le Creuset rubber prep bowl! Whisk it all together.

baking bread recipe easter

Adding Instant Yeast (use like Active Yeast) from little rubber Le Creuset prep bowl

3. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk together

Make sure your eggs are at room temp!

Make sure your eggs are at room temp!

4. Once combined – set aside and wait for the first rise – the yeast will activate and make the mixture all foamy – this takes about 5 – 7 minutes

Rise #1 - foam forms

Rise #1 – foam forms

5. In the mean time – combine the flour, remaining 4 TBSPs of sugar and salt in the bowl of your KitchenAid stand mixer with the bread attachment. This was the debut for my bread attachment!

I've never used the bread attachment before. Love my KitchenAid!

I’ve never used the bread attachment before. Love my KitchenAid!

6. Pour in the foamy once risen mixture and begin to mix over medium speed

Wet into dry - always

Wet into dry – always

7. Slowly – one pat at a time – add in the butter

I love these Land O' Lakes 1/2 sticks. Butter must be softened and sliced.

I love these Land O’ Lakes 1/2 sticks. Butter must be softened and sliced.

8. Jack up the mixer to medium/high and let the kneading begin – knead on med/high for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth!

Silky Smooth! Sticky, but silky smooth

Silky Smooth! Sticky, but silky smooth

9. Transfer the dough into a bowl brushed with melted butter.

Love my little brush

Love my little brush

10. Brush the top of the dough with even more butter, cover and set aside for the second rise – about 90 minutes in a warmish place – Dough should double in size – makes me wonder – did Jesus get bigger?

patience, bread recipe, easter

Rise #2 – brushed with butter and covered. Now, wait for it….

11. After the miracle second rise has occurred – Put some flour in a tiny bowl and dip your hands in! The dough is sticky- so flouring your hands will help.

12. Divide the dough into three equal parts. Form each into a long loggish shape and set on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper and lightly floured. Now, since I didn’t use enough flour from the get go – I was more generous with the flour here.

Ready to braid

Ready to braid

13. Pinch one end of each log together and braid away!

Braided and Ready for rise #3

Braided and Ready for rise #3

14. Cover the beautifully braided dough with Saran Wrap and set aside for the third and final rise – Wait 45 minutes

Risen and Ready to bake

Risen, butter brushed and Ready to Bake

15. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

16. Remove the Saran Wrap from the bread and brush it with butter before placing in the oven

17. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the loaf is 190 degrees.

18. Slice and Eat!

bread, baking, easter

Braided Easter Bread

This tasty bread takes some time but is well worth it. And, while I’m no artist – I think the braiding is impressive. I mean it’s no miracle – but, this Easter weekend it did rise three times.

I’m still not sure what I believe (sorry Mom). But, when I question what it all means I always revert to the wise albeit boozy words I heard so long ago – No matter how you slice it, Jesus was a really good guy, who said a lot of really good things that lasted a really long time. Much longer than this sweet Easter bread will last, indeed.

Don’t Deflate – Inflate the Taste – Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast

Perfectly stuffed and inflated chicken breast

Perfectly stuffed and inflated chicken breast

People have been talking a lot about deflated things lately. The deflated Patriots balls proved for some good fodder on Twitter with #TomBradyHasSaggyBalls and #DeflateGate ruling online.

And things have been inflated too. This past week’s ‘epic’ ‘historic’  ‘monster’ snow storm is a great example of an inflated forecast – for NYC anyway.

But my most amazing recent encounter with inflation came from ConEd. Today I received my e-bill from the Electric Company – not the ’70’s singing kind. Now, I do look at these emails, but what happened today made me think of all the people who never do. See, today’s invoice was for $288.56 for electric charges since December 22 and not 12/22/12, 12/22/14. To put this in perspective, last month’s bill was $58.27 AND I’ve been away much of this billing period. I called – pressed a lot of buttons – and finally got an agent – Tony. Tony explained that because of the ‘storm’ the meters weren’t read and ConEd just estimates the wattage used….uhmmmm, based on what? Me running a neon sign company out of my apartment? After I went and read my own meter (now I know where that is) – the massive inflation error was corrected and my bill deflated down to $52.21.

Lesson here? Sometimes things are erroneously deflated and sometimes things are erroneously inflated.

One thing that you should not deflate but should inflate the taste of is chicken breast. Just pump it up with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach.

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts (serves 2 – more if your breasts are inflated….)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You’re going to dirty a bowl, a plate, a fry pan and a baking dish – so clean as you go
  2. Don’t get over zealous with the flour – you just need enough to lightly coat the breasts – any more and flour will end up all over your counter(s) and floor
  3. Chicken goes on sale – but, please, I beg you, do not buy a store brand unless that store is Fairway, Trader Joe’s or WholeFoods. I recently had an unfortunate bad chicken incident when I stopped and shopped somewhere I won’t name.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Sized Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

    On Sale!

    On Sale! – But a good brand, so AOK

  • 1 10oz Package of Chopped Frozen Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup of Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese – I like the Polly-O brand
  • 2 Slices of Prosciutto – thinly sliced – don’t go crazy, just buy the Boars Head
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil – you know the drill, really good extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt / Pepper – or Dad Salt – message me for where to find it

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. Defrost the spinach – just take it from the package, put it in a microwave safe dish/bowl and zap it for 6-7 minutes

spinach, chopped, frozen, chicken, dinner

BirdsEye spinach – always a good deal

2. Drain the spinach – I wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and wring it out. Just be careful as the spinach is hot (duh) and will burn your hands

3. Once the spinach is wholly cooled – take about 1/2 of it and mix it with the 1/2 cup of Ricotta Cheese – set aside. You can use all the spinach with more ricotta (like I did) and then save the rest of the mixture for a great Spinach Maria side.

spinach, ricotta, stuffed chicken recipe

I made all the spinach and more ricotta –   enough stuffing for 6 breasts Or to make a spinach maria side

4. Butterfly the chicken breasts – this is a little tricky if you’ve never done it. Best advice is to place one hand on top of the breast, slice slowly into the flesh and continue to move your knife down the center and open the breast until it’s a perfect butterfly shape

Put one hand on top of the chicken to hold it steady while slicing

Put one hand on top of the chicken to hold it steady while slicing – and cut that fat off the end

5. Place the breasts one at a time on a large piece of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board

butterfly chicken breast

Perfectly butterflied breast – needs pounding!

6. Place a second piece of plastic wrap on top of the butterflied breast

7. Pound the chicken breast to about 1/4 inch thick – You’re not trying to kill the chicken, it’s already dead – Best method is to come down on the chicken with your mallet and then move the mallet to the outside of the breast. Be careful not to rip the breast open – though really no worries if this happens

8. Salt and Pepper or DadSalt the inside of the pounded breasts

DadSalt is a mix of flavinators and testifiers - a venture to raise funds for EBResearch.org. Contact me for details.

DadSalt is a mix of flavinators and testifiers – a venture to raise funds for EBResearch.org. Contact me for details.

9. On one side of the butterflied and pounded breast, place a heaping tablespoon plus a little more of the ricotta-spinach mixture and use your fingers to press it into an even layer. Leave a little space on the edges – don’t overstuff.

stuffed chicken, spinach ricotta dinner

That’s about the right amount of stuffing – maybe a little too much…

10. Fold the un-spinach/ricotta half of the breast over the spinach-ricotta half and gently press the edges together

stuffed chicken breast, dinner

See, there’s a hole in mine – not to worry. It’ll be hidden by the prosciutto

11. Dredge the stuffed, sealed breasts in flour just to coat

12. Take one slice of the prosciutto and lay it on top of the dredged, stuffed chicken breast

stuffed chicken breast recipe

Dredged and covered – note the hole is now just our secret

13. Heat about 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and 1 TSP of butter in a large pan over medium/high heat

14. Prepare a 9×9 or 8×8 or whatever sized baking dish will fit the breasts with cooking spray – set aside

15. Once the oil, butter is melted and sizzling hot, place the chicken breasts prosciutto side down on the hot pan

stuffed chicken breast dinner

Yes, the prosciutto will adhere all on its own to the chicken. Trust me.

16. Brown the chicken until the prosciutto is browned and crisped and adhered to the chicken – about 4 minutes

17. Flip the chicken and brown the alternate side – about another 4 minutes

stuffed chicken breast, prosciutto, dinner

This is what the prosciutto should look like – perfectly browned and adhered to the chicken.

18. Remove the breasts from the pan and place in the prepared baking dish.

19. Place the baking dish into the oven for :20 minutes – until cooked through and chicken meat is completely white

20. Remove and serve

stuffed chicken breast recipe

Perfect. Just Perfect.

Chicken breast stuffed with spinach

And the surprise inside!

Some things are meant to be deflated – huge egos, beach balls at the end of the day, giant Santas after christmas is over. And, some are meant to be inflated – not my ConEd bill, mind you – but rather a chicken dinner sumptuously inflated with spinach and ricotta cheese.