Mediterranean Barley Salad

My  renewed quest to eat healthier begun a few months ago when I realized that I only had 3 months to prepare for a beach wedding. Eeks! Luckily, the wedding was fabulous and I didn’t gain 12 pounds right before it, so everything went swimmingly, so to speak. However, it did encourage me to start looking for healthier options for grains. I have blogged about the wonder-grain quinoa, which I love, but I needed to mix things up a bit.

I recently discovered pearled barley, which *technically* is not a whole grain (because the husk of the barley grain is removed), but still pretty delicious and good for you. Because the husk of barley requires very little processing to get rid off, and takes very little nutritional value from the barley, your body treats pearled barley like a whole grain!

You can use it as a substitute for other, not-so-healthy grains like rice. And it makes a mean cold salad. You can buy pearled barley in most grocery stores in the bulk food section for VERY cheap. This is a good starter recipe if you are new to pearled barley.

This dish was inspired by a friend’s Mediterranean salad. She brought it to a party once and I was smitten.  I really like the light, earthy flavors of mediterranean cuisine. This cold salad is a crowd pleaser and great to bring to a potluck on a hot summer day.

A Delectable Endeavors Original

01 cup of dry pearled barley

2 cups of water

2 Tbl lemon juice

3 Tbl olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed

1/2 cup of chopped, roasted red pepper

1/8 cup chopped parsley

feta

Bring 2 cups of water with 1/2 tsp salt to a boil. Add dry pearled barley. Let sit for approximately 40 – 45 minutes until water is completely absorbed. It is important not to stir the barley while it cooks.

Mix lemon juice and oil with garlic and salt and pepper. Once barley is cooked, while still warm, pour oil and lemon mixture over the barley and toss with a fork. Toss in red pepper, chickpeas, parsley and feta to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Then, enjoy!

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Quick and Healthy – Greek Turkey Meatballs

My husband and I have been looking at new places to rent and I keep running into the same problem – Small Kitchens!  Some places have less counter space than we have now, which I thought was impossible! When will builders begin making what I want? A house that is half kitchen! I don’t need a bigger bedroom – all I do is sleep in there! Give me a big kitchen.

Sigh. In the meantime, I continue to bake away in the tiny kitchen we have now.

I have been making these meatballs a lot lately. Mainly because they are so versatile. You could easily double this recipe for a small family and use the leftovers to make, meatball sandwiches, toss with pasta, or eat with some roasted vegetables. They are packed with flavor too. Really, these should be called healthier-than-sausage meatballs because they taste a lot like pork sausage, but with much less fat. I like to eat them with tzatziki and pita.

And just wait to see how easy they are to make.

A Delectable Endeavors original

0-31 lb of ground turkey

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I like panko)

1 large egg

1/3 of an onion finely minced

red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp cracked oregano

1/4 cup of crumbled feta

Mix everything together with your hands. Form into 1 inch large balls.

You have 2 choices for baking. 1. Lightly spray a baking pan and bake them at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. 2. Lightly spray a saute pan and cook them until nicely brown on all sides and cooked all the way through.

The Best (Healthy) Chicken Salad Ever

I know that the title might seem hyperbolic, but this is seriously the tastiest chicken salad I’ve ever had. Honestly, I don’t even really like chicken salad that much. Something about the texture of gooey mayo with chunks of whole chicken just doesn’t do it for me. However, I have found a magical solution to my texture problem – don’t use mayo.

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I know what you are thinking. That’s crazy! Mayonnaise is what makes chicken salad stick together! It is the classic glue of chicken salad! But here is the rub with mayo. 1. It has a strange, sticky texture that doesn’t really lend itself gracefully to nice, delicate chicken salad 2. It is not very healthy.

I’m not saying chicken salad HAS to be healthy. But if you can make it more healthy, and more delicious, why not?

I scoured the internet for recipes for versions of chicken salad that didn’t use mayonnaise. Most use greek yogurt. But I wanted a punch of flavor in mine. Not just plan old yogurt. So, what is a great option instead? Tzatziki!

This is a light, refreshing, Greek flavor inspired chicken salad. It is what I always imagined chicken salad to be. It works really well.

The Best (Healthy) Chicken Salad Ever – A Delectable Endeavor original

1 lb chicken breast cooked and cubed

1 cup tzatziki

5 scallions, thinly sliced

1 red or yellow pepper cut into small, bite-sized pieces

1/2 cucumber cut into small, bite-sized pieces

2-3 oz crumbled feta (depending on how much you like feta)

squeeze of fresh lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Start by draining the tzatziki. You need to get rid of some of the water, or it will make your chicken salad watery and unappetizing. I do this by lining a sieve or strainer with cheesecloth (or paper towel will work too). Place the strainer over an empty bowl. Pour tzatziki into lined strainer and let sit in your refrigerator for a couple of hours.

After tzatziki is strained, take strained mixture and place into a large, clean bowl. Add cubed chicken, scallions, pepper, cucumber, and feta. Fold the mixture gently until well incorporated. Finish by folding in a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little salt and pepper to taste. I like to eat it with pita chips.

Quick and Healthy Series – Chipotle Turkey Tacos with Avocado Creme

I’m starting a new series based on how I’ve been cooking lately.  Fast. Easy. Healthy.  Between finishing up a post-doc, doing side projects, studying for licensing exam, well . . .  you get the idea.  While I still love cooking, I don’t have nearly as much time to cook anymore, so I’ve needed to find some ways to fit cooking into my schedule.  Of course, my tastes haven’t changed just because my cooking habits have, so these dishes also be delicious and seem like I spent hours cooking when I really only spent 20-30 minutes.

This is a great kick off to the series because it is a wonderful combination of delicious and complex flavors.  You would think that this would take someone hours of simmering, but takes very little time and effort.  The creme can be made ahead of time as well, cutting down your prep time even more!

I would like to preface this recipe with a note.  These are not real tacos.  Real tacos are a magical thing everyone should experience.  My favorites were from a food cart outside my old work place in the city.  If you have never had tacos from a food cart, don’t be afraid, they could change your life.

1 lb of ground turkey

3 chipotle peppers, in sauce, chopped

1 small (15 oz) can of chopped tomatoes

All Recipe taco seasoning mix

corn tortillas

Avocado creme (taken from Two Peas & Their Pod)

1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I use Chobani)
2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 small Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Make Avocado creme by adding cilantro, Serrano pepper, and garlic to food processor.  Pulse a few times until combined and pepper is thoroughly chopped.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Refrigerate.

To make tacos

Season raw turkey with All Recipe taco seasoning mix.  No need to let sit.  Add seasoned turkey to a pan heated over medium heat.  Once meat begins to brown, add chipotle peppers and canned tomatoes.  Let simmer until cooked through.  You can add a little slurry of cornstarch and water if you want to thicken the mixture up a bit.

Serve over warm tortillas and top with avocado creme!

Moroccan Spiced Carrots

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to incorporate more vegetables into my diet lately.  After all, we are supposed to have 4-5 servings a day and I’m not sure I’m getting that.  After searching on the internet for some recipe ideas I stumbled across a recipe for Moroccan-style carrots that intruiged me.

Firstly, let it be known that I love carrots.  Back when I was a picky eater, and vegetables were a four-letter word to me, I was introduced to carrots.  They were one of the first vegetables I instantly liked.  They can be cool and crisp; a refreshing treat with a creamy dip.  Or they can be roasted, tender and complex.  Plus, carrots are one of the vegetables that can actually be better for you after they are cooked.

Now, I know some of you currently picky eaters are out there thinking, “Gross, cooked veggies.  I don’t like mushy, stinky cooked carrots.”  And this is where I say you are WRONG!  There are a couple of main reasons I have found some people claim they don’t like cooked vegetables.  1) They have only had badly cooked vegetables (ie: overcooked, dry, or mushy) or 2) They have not tried seasoning their vegetables.  Well, here’s my tips to ensure you will have delicious, healthy, nutritious carrots for dinner.

Step 1:  Cutting the vegetables.  It is very important that all of your vegetable pieces are approximately the same size.  Do not skip this step or you will have some mushy, overdone carrots, and some hard, underdone carrots.  If you cut them up so they are all approximately the same size, everything will cook evenly and they will all be done at approximately the same time.

Step 2:  Do not cook vegetables for long!  Veggies (unless very starchy) rarely take longer than 20 minutes to cook.  You should be watching vegetables carefully anytime you cook them because they will go from almost done to overdone fast.  Make sure to keep an eye on them and test them with a fork for tenderness.  Take your vegetables off the heat the second BEFORE you think they are done.  This is because all food cooks for a short while after you remove it from the heat.

Adapted from Pikelet & Pie

Approximately 2 cups of carrots, trimmed, washed and peeled.

1 1/2 Tbl olive oil

1 Tbl butter

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp corriander

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.  While the oil and butter are heating through, combine all of the spices together in a bowl.  Once the butter is completely melted, add carrots.  Cook until almost fork tender, approximately 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your carrots.   Add the spice mixture to the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes are coated and the spices are slightly toasted.  Turn heat off and splash lemon juice over carrots.  Cover with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Mix well and serve warm.

Red Chicken Curry

I grew up in the Midwest.  So, it is surprising that the most delicious, comforting foods I always go back to when I’m feeling blue are usually . . .  well . . .  asian.  My family was not the most adventurous of eaters.  I never even tried asian food until I was 16.  In fact, at one point, my father convinced me Chinese food was made of cat.  It was a bleak time in my childhood.

Fortunately, I eventually ate Chinese food and loved it.  Since, I have been pretty enamoured with all different types of asian cuisine.  Give me saag paneer.  Feed me char siu.  I crave it.

One of my favorite dishes is red curry.  Now, let me explain myself.  Curry can mean different things to many people, depending on where you live and what you’ve eaten.  I’m talking about traditional Thai red curry.  This type of curry typically uses curry paste and coconut milk.  This type of curry is usually eaten with lots of broth as a soup-like dish with rice.  And I particularly like my own recipe.

1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 green pepper, seeded and sliced

1 small onion, sliced

2 Tbl olive oil

1 can (14.5 oz) of coconut milk

1 and 1/2 Tbl red curry paste

1/2 tsp of chili powder

2 tsp chopped garlic

1 Tbl crushed ginger

2 cups chicken broth

1 Tbls soy sauce

2 tsp of lime juice

Many of these ingredients can be swapped out for others.  I have used tofu instead of chicken.  I have used carrots instead of peppers.  This is a very verstaile recipe, as many curries are.  I would say stick with the basic broth ingredients, as they are what really make this recipe a curry, and make the flavor pop.  But feel free to toy around with what you add to the curry sauce.  I also like my curry with a little kick.  If you don’t like your curry that spicy, don’t add the chili powder.

Start by chopping the chicken into smaller pieces.  Warm the oil in a frying pan.  Salt and pepper the chicken generously.  Begin to cook chicken in 1 Tbl of oil.  When the chicken peices are white on the outside, but still pink inside and not fully cooked, add the chopped vegetables and garlic.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook all ingredients until nearly done.  This means, onions should begin to become transluscent, chicken should be just white all the way through.  It is important NOT to overcook any of the chicken or vegetables.  They will cook some more in the broth.  If you cook them all the way through, the chicken will become tough and vegetables will be soggy when added to the broth.

Remove chicken and vegetables from the pan and transfer to another dish.  In the SAME pan, warm additional tablespoon of oil on medium-low heat.  Add ginger, chili powder, and red curry paste.  Warm until fragrant.  Stir in broth slowly, until curry past mixture is fully incorporated.  Add coconut milk.  Keep heat low.  Do not boil.

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to broth.  Add soy sauce and lime juice to taste.  Let cook on low together for at least 15 minutes.  Serve over rice.  If you have fresh basil, chopp and garnish.