Healthy Eats – Southwestern Pinto Bean Burgers

I’m not a vegetarian and neither is my husband but I try to incorporate a decent amount of vegetarian evenings into our weekly routine. Doing so ensures that we aren’t eating too much red meat, gives us a ton of variety in our diet, and is generally super easy on our wallets. These Southwestern Pinto Burgers from Cooking Light are one of our favorite meat-free recipes. They are delicious and fairly simple to prepare – perfect for a weeknight dinner. I generally make the full recipe which yields 4 patties – we have two for dinner and both Andy and I eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. The burgers are fantastic on a bun, over some greens, or wrapped up in a tortilla.

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Original Image From Cooking Light

Southwestern Pinto Bean Burgers

Burgers:

  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained or 1 cup of frozen corn (that for a few minutes)

Top Burgers with either Chipotle Mayo or Green Chile Mayo – Chipotle is a little spicier but the green chile is also delicious.

Chipotle Mayo

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon canned minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Green Chile Mayo

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 T canned chopped green chiles

To prepare burgers, combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pinto beans and corn; partially mash with a fork or potato masher. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 3 1/2-inch patty, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

To prepare  mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise and peppers in a small bowl (or directly in the gladware that you intend to store it in); set aside.

Heat 1T canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 lettuce leaf, and top half of bun.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving (based on Chipotle Mayo and Hamburger Buns)

  • WW Points – 10 PP with Hamburger Buns, 8 PP with Sandwich Thin
  • Calories: 411
  • Calories from fat: 23%
  • Fat: 10.7g
  • Saturated fat: 1.9g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.2g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 3.2g
  • Protein: 15.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 63.1g
  • Fiber: 9.1g
  • Cholesterol: 57mg
  • Iron: 3.9mg
  • Sodium: 837mg
  • Calcium: 153mg

Balsamic Strawberry Dressing

When I was visiting Louisiana earlier this month I had the opportunity to raid my friend Sarah’s mom’s recipe file. Let me tell you, it was a fantastic pilfering. Among other things, she had an incredible collection of homemade healthy salad dressings. Last night I tried her Balsamic Strawberry Dressing and it was out of this world. Even better? It was extremely simple. You just chop up a couple of cups of strawberries and toss them with some balsamic vinegar and sugar. After an hour or so you have a delicious dressing. I tossed it with spinach, feta and some pecans for a refreshing salad. Today for lunch I will be adding a little shredded chicken and enjoying it all over again. I also have a sneaking suspicion that you could dump a few tablespoons of the strawberries over vanilla ice cream and have an outstanding dessert.

Strawberries

Balsamic Dressing

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Cups fresh strawberries, cut or raspberries

Put in container and shake or stir. Let sit at least an hour. Serve over spinach with cheese (feta, blue, goat) and nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds) or try over ice cream!

*You can cut the recipe in half if you aren’t making salad for a group. I like to have extra in the fridge to play with for a few days.

Sunday Night Suppers: Zucchini Two Ways

Our Sunday Night Supper club met for the second time yesterday. To avoid conflicts with the Oscars we got together during the early afternoon, the ideal time for a late brunch. Our club operates as a potluck, the hostess is in charge of the main dish and beverages and the remaining ladies bring dishes that compliment the main event. Yesterday’s smorgasbord featured a basil quiche, arugula salad, ginger glazed sausages, Tuscan lemon and zucchini chocolate muffins, West Virginian pizza rolls, ginger fruit salad and, my contribution, a zucchini-pineapple bread.

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The zucchini-pineapple bread was absolutely scrumptious. Dense, moist and perfectly sweet. It definitely earned a permanent spot in my recipe file. I’m trying to be more rigorous about not wasting ingredients, so Andrew and I enjoyed zucchini-potato pancakes with eggs for dinner. It was an easy, healthy meal, perfect for a Sunday night. We may have spoiled the healthiness a bit by indulging in a heaping serving of zucchini-pineapple bread for dessert.  Hey, we have to use up the leftovers somehow!

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Image Credit: Oxmoor House – Original Image at My Recipes.com

Zucchini-Pineapple Bread
Cooking Light, June 2008

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained
  • Baking spray with flour (or just plain old Pam)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°.
  • Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, and next 3 ingredients (through ground cinnamon) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Beat eggs with a mixer at medium speed until foamy. Add sugar, zucchini, oil, egg substitute, and vanilla, beating until well blended. Add zucchini mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in pineapple. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5–inch) loaf pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.* Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
  • This recipe makes 2 loaves.  Freeze the extra loaf, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil, for up to one month. Thaw at room temperature. Slices are good microwaved at HIGH for 10 to 15 seconds.

*After 8 years of baking in temperamental NYC rental apartment ovens I have learned to always vigorously underestimate the baking time. It’s better to check the oven every two minutes for the last ten minutes of baking then wind up with burnt goodies.

Yield: 14 Servings per loaf (I recommend slicing down the middle and then into 7 slices)

Nutritional Information (Per Serving)

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 5
Calories: 167
Calories from fat: 32%
Fat: 5.9g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Monounsaturated fat: 3.3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.7g
Protein: 2.4g
Carbohydrate: 26.5g
Fiber: 0.7g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Iron: 0.9mg
Sodium: 151 mg

Zucchini-Potato Pancakes with Eggs

Ingredients
 

  • 2 cups shredded potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 small)
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 T mixed herbs – either Italian herbs or other mixes you have in your cabinet. I used an herbs and garlic mix I have from a Puerto Rican spice store.
  • 4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh salsa (optional)
  • Fat free sour cream (optional)
Instructions

  • Shred zucchini and peeled potato using a food processor with a grating attachment.  If you don’t have a food processor you can shred using a micro-plan zester/grater.  You can also purchase the potatoes already shredded (just look for refrigerated hashbrowns), but I figure if you are already shredding the zucchini why  not shred the potato and save a few bucks.
  • Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; heavily coat pan with cooking spray. Using the 1/4 cup measuring cup that you measured with create 8 patties. Form the patties with your hands so that they stick together. Place patties in pan. Cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 4 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove pancakes from pan, and keep warm. If necessary, repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.
  • Reheat pan over medium-high heat; heavily recoat pan with cooking spray. Crack 4 eggs into pan; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and coat tops of eggs with cooking spray. Cover and cook 3 minutes or until whites have just set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard or until desired degree of doneness. Slide 1 egg onto 2 potato pancakes. Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Yield:  2 Servings

Nutritional Information (Per Serving)

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 11
Calories: 444
Fat: 13g
Protein: 31.2g
Carbohydrate: 48g
Fiber: 3.2g
Cholesterol: 372mg
Iron: 2.8mg
Sodium: 784mg

Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice

Getting dinner on the table in our household is sometimes a challenge. Despite the fact that I love to cook, weeknight meal preparation often feels more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime. New York’s endless take-out options also make it far too easy to be lazy, and let’s be honest, a bit unhealthy. I find that making dinner happen is a lot easier if I think ahead and carefully choose my recipes.

I have three main requirements for a weeknight dinner. First, it most be delicious. I really don’t see the point in bothering with mediocre food. Andrew and I rate every new recipe I try. If a dish doesn’t score at least an 8 out of 10 it doesn’t enter regular rotation. Second, it must be quick and easy. Ideally I am in and out of the kitchen in under 45 minutes, leaving plenty of time in my evening for watching cheesy television. Third, it makes good leftovers. Andrew takes his lunch to work most days and I work from home. Eating leftovers for lunch helps keep our food budget in check and ensures that most of our meals are relatively healthy.

Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice passes all three tests with flying colors. Prepping and cooking takes about half-an-hour, the final product is absolutely delicious and it tastes just as good the next day. I highly recommend adding this to your week-night menu.

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Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice
Adapted From Cooking Light Fresh Food Superfast

Tropical Black Beans

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I use red, orange or yellow – about 1 1/2 full peppers) You can use pre-chopped peppers to save time.
3/4 cup chopped red onion (or 1 chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (1/2 inch) chunks mango (1 mango)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice or 4-5 tablespoons frozen orange juice*
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or dutch oven (I prefer using a deeper pot – I’m a bit messy! I generally break out my 4 1/2 quart dutch oven)
Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sauté 4 minutes or until tender.
Stir in mango, juice, spices and beans. Cook 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Serve over 1/2 cup coconut rice and sprinkle each serving with 2 T cheese

Coconut Rice

1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant brown rice
1/4 chopped green onions
Dash of hot sauce (to taste)

Combine coconut milk and salt in a 2-quart saucepan.
Bring to a boil; gradually stir in rice.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Remove from heat; let stand, covered 5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork. Stir in hot sauce and green onions.

If you don’t have instant rice on hand you can make this with normal brown rice. I follow the instructions on the package, subbing coconut milk + broth or water for the amount of liquid required.

*We are not regular OJ drinkers and I can’t stand buying a big jug of juice just for one recipe.  Instead I keep a tub of frozen concentrate in my freezer, either in tupperware or in the the original packaging covered with plastic wrap. When a recipe calls for fresh juice I sub in frozen – I just scoop it right out of the tub and into the pot. Just make sure to add a little less than the recipe calls for since the frozen stuff is more concentrated.

Nutritional Info – Per Serving

Beans:
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 6
Calories: 237
Fat: 5.4g
Protein: 12.2g
Carb: 40.8g
Fiber: 8.4g
Chol: 9mg
Iron: 3.4mg
Sodium: 198mg
Calc: 177mg

Coconut Rice
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4
Calories: 122
Fat: 4.4g
Protein: 2.3g
Carb: 21g
Fiber: 1.5g
Chol: 0mg
Iron: .6mg
Sodium: 17gmg
Calc: 5mg

My First Days in the Kitchen

I haven’t always liked to cook. In fact, I didn’t have a clue about what to do in the kitchen until I was 23. I was a 2nd year law student living in NYC with a tiny apartment kitchen. I’m not sure what I’d been subsisting on – probably a combination of take-out and frozen foods. I don’t remember what changed but I suddenly decided one day that “Grown-Ups” should know how to cook so I bought a few cookbooks. I started with an old family favorite – the Better Homes & Garden Cook Book. My Mom’s battered red and white checkered edition has been in my house longer than I’ve been alive. I jazzed it up a bit with the new Pink Plaid breast-cancer edition.  Cooking and a cause?  Perfect.

New Cook Book, Limited Edition "Pink Plaid" : For Breast Cancer Awareness (Better Homes & Gardens)

Like the good type-A girl that I pretend not to be, I didn’t just casually start cooking. Nope. I made a plan. It was simple. I cooked twice a week, one day I would make an old standby, the other I would cook something new. Luckily, my Mom and my best college girlfriend both happen to be fabulous home cooks, so I always had someone to call when I had questions. I highly recommend this method for anyone just beginning in the kitchen. It helped me build my confidence gradually and it was great to have a few recipes that I knew I could execute perfectly. Within a few months I’d discovered that not only could I cook, but I loved to cook. There was no turning back.

Cooking with my beautiful Mom!

Sunday Night Suppers

It’s funny how social circles can change so gradually you hardly notice. A few years ago my NYC life was filled to the brim with acquaintances and a heaping handful of good friends. Then, one by one, they moved on to new adventures in different cities. Luckily they’ve ran off to exciting places like NOLA, San Diego and LA so I always have somewhere warm to visit. However, over the last six months I’ve found myself, more than occasionally, feeling a little lonely. Don’t get me wrong. In the friends department I’m incredibly lucky. I’ve been super blessed with tons of amazing ladies, both in NYC and around the country. But I’ve been jonesing for some additional quality girly hang out time and some new faces for my circle.

Solution? An old friend and I decided to start a girly cooking club. We christened it Sunday Night Suppers and opened the group to any interested women. The only requirements being that you RSVP in a timely manner and you bring some food to share. I hosted our inaugural dinner this last Sunday. We ate delicious lasagna and gorged on homemade desserts. I made an old favorite from The Best Light Recipe, Meat & Cheese Lasagna. It’s always a hit, and relatively healthy too!  (It secretly uses ground turkey in place of ground beef, shh!)

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Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the actual lasagna. You’ll have to trust me, it was yummy! All in all, it was a delightful evening filled with delicious food and even better conversation. The group is a mix of old friends and new acquaintances. I can’t wait to get to know everyone better and see how the group develops a personality of its own. I’m already looking forward to next month, I’ve heard a rumor there might be mussels involved