Mexican Egg Breakfast Sandwich

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These icy temperatures are relentless. Is it just me, or has this winter been colder, longer and more of a bummer than those in the past? It seems like the whole country has been beaten and battered by the ugly bully named winter. Isn’t it technically spring? I just want to see some tulips and daffodils in the tree lawns already!

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had this winter is just getting out of bed in the morning. My bed is just so warm and cozy, and 5:30am is just way too early for me these days. It really takes every ounce of willpower to leave my bed when it’s so dark and cold, but alas, such is life, and this is definitely a first world problem. But as a lifelong morning person who has avoided caffeine for most of her life, I now understand those coffee addicts that wait in line at Starbucks for 30 minutes every day.

Since I don’t feel “awake” until long after I’ve left my bed even though my eyes are open, I’ve started relying entirely on my breakfasts to fuel me through my mornings. I’ve found a need for instant carb energy and long-lasting protein energy, with just enough good fats to get my brain working. Using this Weight Watchers recipe as a starting point, I added more veggies and a sprinkle of cheese to make a satisfying and balanced breakfast sandwich that is sure to carry you through your morning.

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Mexican Egg Breakfast Sandwich
Serves: 6 (see notes)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: <5 minutes

Ingredients
2 sprays cooking spray
6 eggs
4 egg whites (I recommend pre-separated liquid egg whites)
3 Tbsp scallions, sliced
1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 light English muffins, sliced in half
6 Tbsp reduced fat cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp fat free salsa

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, and coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, scallions, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour into skillet and cook, scrambling until set (see notes). Remove from heat.
  3. Divide scrambled eggs evenly on top of the English muffin bottoms. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of cheese on top of the eggs, and repeat for all English muffins. Spread 1/2 Tbsp of salsa on the inside of each English muffin top. Close sandwich, and serve warm.

Notes:
This recipe can be really simply cut down to 1 or 2 servings for a quick breakfast-on-the-go. If you are making single servings and have a small egg skillet, you can pour the egg mixture into that, and instead of scrambling, cook the eggs without stirring for 2 minutes, flip, and cook for 2 additional minutes to form an egg patty.
For an easy grab-and-go weekday breakfast, make all 6 sandwiches, wrap each individually in wax paper, and freeze for up to 7 days. When ready to eat, microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through.

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Spinach Pesto

20140317-093552.jpgHappy St. Patrick’s Day! I wore a green headband to work, just in case anyone is in the pinching mood. 🙂 Does it also count that I’ll be eating a lot of green things today? Yes? Okay, then we’re good.

When you’re a kid, green foods can go one of two ways. Either it’s super gross (I mean, cooked spinach is kind of slimy and weird looking), or it’s really cool (remember when they made green ketchup??). When I was young, my mom would get super into all themed holidays, and St. Patrick’s Day was a really fun one. She used to put green food coloring in everything. Our cereal milk was green, and our lunches would have sandwiches in green bread, and we would eat green cookies after school. My mom loved anything with a theme, and any reason to celebrate, so if she had an excuse to dye everything green for one day, she took it.

That kind of stuff is fun for kids, but as an adult, it would probably be weird to put green food coloring in my lunch bag and bring it to work. Instead, I had an early St. Patrick’s celebration this weekend with green pasta and pizza!

Guys, I’m a pesto junkie. It’s so nutty and robust in flavor. I just can’t even right now. But, homemade pesto requires a ton of fresh basil, and it isn’t all that healthy — traditional pesto recipes sneak in a lot of fat in the form of oil, cheese and pine nuts. By reducing the amount of cheese and oil; substituting the rich pine nuts with almonds and the basil with spinach; and adding in broth and lemon juice, this recipe has a ton of flavor without ruining your diet. Not to mention, this sauce takes minutes to make. It’s so delicious that it didn’t even last a full day when I made it this weekend! After tossing it with some whole wheat penne at lunch time, the boys and I made mini flatbread pizzas for dinner, and the pesto pizza was a huge hit!

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The pesto flatbread pizza is the slice on the right — it is topped with spinach, onions, mushrooms and Weight Watchers Italian blend cheese. Also pictured is a veggie flatbread pizza with red sauce, and a mango salad.

You can  also put this pesto on your favorite sandwich, or drizzle it over a fresh caprese salad.

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Spinach Pesto
Preparation Time: <5 minutes
Cooking Time: <5 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 Tbsp plain almonds, sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp basil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Place spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until wilted.
  2. Add spinach, almonds, garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, red pepper, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor, and chop until very fine and combined.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the vessel and pour in vegetable broth and lemon juice. Blend on low until well combined and uniform.
  4. Slowly blend olive oil into the spinach mixture until fully incorporated.
  5. Transfer pesto to a bowl, and stir in cheese. Adjust for salt and pepper, and serve.

Note: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tip: make a big batch and store leftovers, 1 tablespoon at a time, in ice cube trays. Pop them out and defrost as many as needed for future recipes.

Easy Teriyaki Stir Fry with Baked Tofu

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The weather is out of control right now here. Two days ago, it was 60°F and sunny. Yesterday, it was 45°F and rainy. Today, it’s 30°F and snowing. What the what?! Not to mention, tomorrow is supposed to be 20°F and the following day, 50°F. Universe, I’m okay with whatever you decide, but can we just be consistent, please?

Anyway, when I came home after work and running errands yesterday, it was already past 7:15pm, and I hadn’t even started preparing for dinner. I wanted something filling and balanced, as well as flavorful and fresh. After satisfying my grumbling stomach with a piece of cheese, I pulled out some leftover tofu, made a quick marinade, baked it up, and tossed it with stir fried vegetables. I put a bit of rice in my rice cooker, and within a half an hour, I was eating dinner while watching Pretty Little Liars. Delicious, comforting, and easy to prepare, this dish is a favorite of mine on a cold, rainy day.

Easy Teriyaki Stir Fry with Baked Tofu
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
2-14 oz. packages extra firm tofu, rinsed, drained, excess water pressed out, and cut into 1″ cubes
3/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup + 1 cup reduced sodium Teriyaki sauce
2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 second spray of olive oil spray
1-1 lb. bag of frozen stir fry vegetables, or 6 cups of your favorite fresh stir fry vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, bok choy, red cabbage, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, corn, etc.)

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, toss tofu with soy sauce, 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce, garlic, garlic powder, sesame seeds, red pepper, and basil. Marinate for at least 5 minutes. Reserve leftover marinade. Bake for 15 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, roughly chop fresh vegetables if using. In a large skillet or wok, heat olive oil spray over medium heat. Stir fry vegetables until cooked through, for about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add remaining marinade, remaining Teriyaki sauce, and tofu to vegetables. Heat thoroughly. Serve with brown rice or cooked lo mein noodles.

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Scrambled Tofu with Spinach and Tomatoes

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Fact: I could never, ever be vegan. I have immense respect for any vegan (or lactose intolerant person) because I would probably cry myself to sleep every night if I couldn’t eat cheese. It’s the best.

The above statement has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I thought the world should know.

Anyway, I’ve had a turbulent relationship with eggs in the past. I’ll go through these phases where I think eggs are the best ever, and then suddenly, I’ll never want to even smell an egg ever again. It’s a strange problem, but alas, such is my life. I’ve been reading a lot of recipes for tofu as a scrambled egg substitute, so I thought I’d try my hand at it. And it is good! This dish has a similar texture to “wet” scrambled eggs, and can accommodate for a lot of great flavors and add-ins, without having that “eggy” taste. And a big bonus here: this recipe takes less than 10 minutes, and can be made in advance! Woohoo!

Want to make this dish even more filling? Grab a couple of whole wheat or corn tortillas and make a breakfast taco. Heat up some black beans to throw into the taco to make an even more satisfying any-time-of-day-meal.
Want more add-ins? Try plain or roasted corn, plain or roasted red peppers, caramelized mushrooms, salsa, avocado, kale, taco seasoning, or brie.
Want to make it more vegan? Use nutritional yeast or vegan cheese instead of regular cheese.
Can’t commit to tofu? Use half the amount of tofu, and add 2 eggs for scrambling.
Really skeptical about tofu? Nix the tofu all together, and use eggs as you normally would. But really, just give tofu a chance!

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Scrambled Tofu with Spinach and Tomatoes
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
1 package firm tofu, drained and rinsed with excess water pressed out
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp paprika or mild chili powder
Hot sauce, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  2. While crumbling with hands, add tofu to skillet. Use the edge of a wooden spoon to break up the tofu into smaller crumbles until it resembles scrambled eggs. (If using eggs, add them in now and scramble them up!)
  3. Add cheese, mustard, paprika, hot sauce, salt and pepper to the tofu, and stir continuously until cheese melts.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and toss in tomatoes and spinach. Stir until spinach wilts. Serve hot.

Note: For a make ahead meal, prepare this recipe through Step 3. Line the bottom of a lidded container with spinach, and pour hot tofu mixture over it. Place tomatoes on top, cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Papas Con Chile (Mexican Mashed Potatoes)

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Nearby to my house, there’s a Mexican restaurant that serves these awesome mashed potatoes as a side to their dishes. Suffice it to say, they are positively addicting. They are creamy, and cheesy, but still a little crunchy with the addition of finely chopped veggies. Also, I’ve never seen these potatoes anywhere else, so it makes me wonder if they are truly Mexican. Oh well. They are delicious, and that’s all that matters.

I will warn you though: these definitely aren’t diet friendly. But hey, we all need to splurge some times. And if you balance these potatoes with a salad or fajita veggies on the side, you can have a pretty nutritious and delicious meal. Also, this dish can be thrown together in minutes, which makes it a great side dish for entertaining!

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Papas Con Chile (Mexican Mashed Potatoes)
Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
3 lbs. red potatoes, washed, with skins on
3 oz fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cream
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
10 oz. Velveeta 2% milk cheese, cubed
Salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp jalapeno, minced

  1. Boil potatoes with skin on until soft.
  2. In a large pot over low heat, add potatoes, cheeses, and creams and mash until cheese has melted. Stir in remaining ingredients until fully incorporated, and heat on low, stirring occasionally, until evenly heated through.

 

 

Easy Vanilla Flan

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The first time I had flan, I was said, “flan is so weird.” I mean, it really is. It lies somewhere between a custard and jello, and it’s sweet and sticky with its caramel topping. Even though it’s not super heavy like triple layer chocolate cake, it’s still pretty sugary and generally unhealthy, and not necessarily easy to make, especially when you go the “homemade caramel” route.

I’m all about the shortcuts here.

I came up with a yummy flan recipe with a couple of diet friendly modifications, and it was a big hit among my guests! I love the way that the caramel just flows over the flan. The recipe itself isn’t super time consuming, and you can just throw it in the oven to bake, and kind of forget about it for an hour. FYI, that’s just enough time to watch a rerun of Law and Order: SVU on TV. I’m down with any recipe that allows me to do such things.

Also, I used one large ramekin instead of several small ones (to save on dishes and such), and then cut the flan into small pieces.

Easy Vanilla Flan
Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters)
1 14oz can low fat sweetened condensed milk
2 13oz cans low fat evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated white sugar, or sugar substitute (like Splenda or Stevia)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar free caramel topping (like Smucker’s)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a stand mixer or using a whisk, blend the egg substitute with both milks. Slowly mix in sugar, and then vanilla, until the mixture is smooth and uniform.
  3. Pour caramel topping into 6 ramekins, or into 1 large ceramic, round pan. Swirl the caramel around until the bottom of the dish(es) is covered.
  4. Pour the milk mixture into the pan(s), and place ramekin(s) into a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Fill the dish with 1-2″ of hot water, and bake in the oven for an hour, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven, and let cool. After the flan has cooled, place flan in the fridge for at least an hour.
  6. When ready to serve, use a pairing knife to loosen the edges of the flan. Invert onto a plate, and serve.

Veggie Enchiladas

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This has certainly been the longest, coldest, most whirlwind winter I’ve ever experienced. Once I finally got a chance to sit still for a hot minute, I got sick, and then the chaos began once again. We’ve had a revolving door of guests, from my dad’s week long stay, to a long weekend of Chirag’s college friends, to my bestie Jake’s quick trip, things have been nonstop and wonderful. This weekend, two more friends are coming from out of town, but we’ve planned to keep things fairly low key. If nothing else, I’m just ready to clean out my backlogged shows on my DVR.

This past weekend was the most insane of all. Chirag’s roommate hosted a huge birthday party for himself, and invited old friends and new for the weekend. It was crazy, and fun, and sleepless. On Sunday, 4 of Chirag’s friends, and Chirag and I needed a break from all of the craziness at their apartment, and so I invited them all to my apartment for lunch/dinner/our only meal for the day. The boys were so excited to cook “real food,” so we did a huge collaborative meal.

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The food was delicious. I made chole and bhatura; Nikhil made paneer tikka; Arsh and Sanchit made aloo paratha; and Chirag did all of the chopping and cooked the paratha. Arsh also made yummy mango lassis, and I threw together some onion slices with lemon juice and red chili powder. We ate and ate and ate until we couldn’t move, cuddled up on the sofas and watched a Hindi movie. I maybe had a small bowl of ice cream during the movie. 🙂

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I love hosting people at my house. For some reason, the pile of dishes that follows a wonderful meal with loved ones seems less daunting than the few dishes left after a meal for one. I love bringing people together over food, which can obviously be done at the home or at a restaurant, but I prefer my home, so I can better control how many calories I intake.

Last week, while my dad was visiting, I invited his best friends over for dinner. They have been our family’s friends since before I was born, and we always have a fun time together. I had gotten home early from work that day, so I had time to make tons and tons of Mexican food for dinner. It took a while, but for a normal meal where you are not entertaining, each dish doesn’t actually take too long.

Enchiladas are my favorite Mexican dish. They are so easy to make, and calories can be controlled if you are mindful. I mix in tons of veggies to make each enchilada more filling and nutritious, and I make my sauce from scratch so as to cut back on sodium. All and all, these are yummy and satisfying, especially on a blustery cold night!

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Veggie Enchiladas
Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
For the Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp cayanne pepper
2 cups no salt added vegetable broth

For the Vegetables
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced (I used one green and one red pepper)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1 packet reduced sodium taco seasoning

For the Beans
1 tsp olive oil
2 cans refried beans (see note)
1 packet reduced sodium taco seasoning
1/2 tsp cayanne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt, to taste

For the Enchiladas
2 tsp olive oil
8 low carb 8″ whole wheat tortillas
2 cups reduced fat cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Sauce: heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour, stir and cook for a minute. Stir in chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayanne pepper, and salt, and cook for an additional minute. Slowly stir in broth, breaking up any lumps, until smooth. Turn down heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce becomes slightly thick.
  3. Vegetables: heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onion, garlic, peppers, and jalapeno. Stir occasionally until vegetables are heated through, but still somewhat crisp (~ 5 minutes). Add in green onions, spinach and taco seasoning. Stir to coat all veggies with seasoning, and cook until spinach wilts.
  4. Beans: heat 1 tsp oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add beans, taco seasoning and other spices. Stir until beans are heated through.
  5. Enchilada assembly: heat oil in a saute pan or cast iron skillet. Place each tortilla in the hot oil for 30 seconds on each side, until the tortillas become soft and bubbled. Pour enough sauce onto a baking dish to just cover the bottom. Onto a tortilla, spoon on a tablespoon of sauce, 1/8th of the beans and veggies, and 2 tablespoons of cheese. Roll the enchilada and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat for remaining tortillas. Pour the remainder of the sauce over the enchiladas, and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly, and tortilla edges are golden. Serve hot.

Note: I used refried beans on this particular occasion because it’s what my dad likes. I also like to use whole black beans (drained and washed) that can be prepared the same way as above.