Eating My Way Through

Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo and Oven Fries May 28, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 4:27 pm

With Memorial Day comes the start of the BBQ and picnic season. People dust off their grills and clean their patios for nights spent cooking out and hanging with friends. When it comes to cookouts, I am a traditionalist, burgers, brats and hot dogs, but I know some of you out there stick to a strictly vegetarian diet, and I am nothing if not accommodating.

So here is a great recipe for veggie burgers made out of black beans. These burgers are  easy to make and have been a big hit in the past with my vegetarian friends. They also freeze really well so you can grab one out of the freezer and reheat at anytime. I served them with a quick chipotle mayo and oven fries that taste like the real thing…but are much better for ya.

You start by draining and rinsing the black beans. Let them dry a bit then place in a large bowl. Take a fork and start mashing the beans…I realize the picture doesn’t look like the most appetizing thing!

Mashed Black Beans

Mashed Black Beans

Dice up 1/2 a Vidalia onion and 3 garlic cloves, add to the beans and mix together.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup substitution egg whites, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground oregano and 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder. Feel free to mix in your favorite spices instead. The burgers have a slightly smoky taste, so if that isn’t your thing, give something else a shot.

Add the egg  mixture to the beans and then add 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Mix everything together. You want the mixture to retain some dampness, otherwise your burgers will turn out dry.

Burger Mixture

Burger Mixture

Form the burgers into 4 separate patties and place on a baking sheet prepared with cooking spray.

Black Bean Patties

Black Bean Patties

Cover the burgers with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a bit while you make the potatoes. The time in the fridge will help them solidify and it will prevent crumbly burgers.

 Pre-heat the oven to 400° so it heats up while you prep the potatoes.

I used Yukon Gold potatoes this time, but this recipe will pretty much work with any potato you choose, including sweet potatoes.

Wash the potatoes and slice them into about 1/4 inch thick wedges.

In a larger bowl, combine 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.

Coated Potato Wedges

Coated Potato Wedges

Spray another baking sheet and spread out the potatoes evenly.

Potatoes ready for Baking

Potatoes ready for Baking

Place the potatoes in the oven, and let cook for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the potatoes over to brown the other side. 

Also, take the burgers out of the fridge and place in the oven with the potatoes. Cook both for 10 minutes. Repeat the flipping of the potatoes, and also flip the burgers. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. Be careful to watch the potatoes so they don’t burn!

While everything is cooking, combine 1/4 cup light mayonnaise with 1/2 tsp chipotle chili pepper in a small bowl. Squeeze in 1/2 of fresh lime juice and stir. Feel free to add more pepper, all depends on how much kick you want!  The chipotle mayo is a great topper for the burgers and goes well with the smoky flavor.

Black Bean Burger and Oven Fries

Black Bean Burger and Oven Fries

 You can also grill the burgers in case you don’t feel like firing up the oven on a hot day…just cook for about 8 minutes per side and you should be good to go!

Black Bean Burgers (own recipe)

 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 Vidalia onion, medium, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup egg whites

2 tsp cumin, ground

2 tsp oregano, dried

1/4 tsp chipotle chili pepper, ground

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


Pre-heat oven to 400°

Mash drained and rinsed black beans with a fork in a large bowl

Add diced onions and garlic, stir

In a small bowl, combine egg whites, cumin, oregano and chili powder

Add egg mixture to black beans, stir

Add in breadcrumbs, stir

Form into 4 patties, and place on cooking sprayed baking sheet

Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for about 15 minutes to solidify patties

Remove plastic wrap and place in the oven

Bake 10 minutes, flip, bake for 10 minutes more

Remove from oven and serve with chipotle mayo or your favorite condiments

Yields 4 burgers

Oven Fries (own recipe)

4 Yukon gold potatoes, washed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt


Pre-heat oven to 400°

Slice potatoes into 1/4 inch wedges

In a large bowl combine oil and salt

Add potatoes to oil and toss to coat

Spread out evenly on a cooking sprayed baking sheet

Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes, turning after every 10

Yields 4 servings


Homemade Gnocchi and Marinara Sauce May 23, 2010

Filed under: Dinner — Nikki Wegner @ 11:37 pm

I have always been intrigued with the idea of making my own pasta and marinara sauce. And since it’s definitely something I eat a lot and I have never met a carb I didn’t like, I thought why not give it a shot. I mean how hard could it be…right?

Well it is definitely not quick and easy! And I didn’t even make real pasta, just gnocchi, which is the Italian name for potato dumplings. But, I feel it was a good first step! Just make sure you make it on a night that you have a few hours to spare or that you eat a snack before starting to cook, because it takes awhile and everything will start smelling really yummy and you will want to eat ASAP.

First things first, put 2 lbs of Yukon gold or russet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 tsps of salt to the water too. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Potatoes Boiling

Potatoes Boiling

While the potatoes are boiling, you can get started on the marinara sauce. Heat a tsp of oil in a large saucepan, add in 1 medium finely chopped leak and 3 minced garlic cloves. Saute for about 2 minutes and then add some dried oregano.

Sauteing Leeks and Garlic

Sauteing Leeks and Garlic

Add one 28 ounce can of italian style tomatoes and 1 tbsp sugar and bring mixture to a simmer. Partially cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat. In very small batches, place in a blender and puree until smooth. Transferring to a large bowl/Tupperware container.  It is key to do very small batches, otherwise you will end up with a messy kitchen and very little sauce for actual eating.

Return the sauce back to the pan. Setting on low heat, add some evaporated milk and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. When ready to serve add in some fresh basil. If you are planning on freezing some of the sauce, or not eating it all at once, I would recommend using dried basil instead of fresh, as the fresh basil won’t necessarily hold up over a few days.

Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Turn the heat down to low on the sauce to keep it warm as you finish of the gnocchi.

After the potatoes are done cooking, drain them in a colander. Using a small knife, peel the skins off of the potatoes. Make sure to use a towel to hold the potatoes as you peel, they will be very hot!

Return the peeled potatoes back to the pot. If you have a potato ricer, use that, or if you are like me, simply mash them to bits until there are no lumps.

Very Mashed Potatoes

Very Mashed Potatoes

Stir in 1 egg and a bunch of salt.

Weigh out about 10 ounces of flour and add about half to the potatoes, or if you are like me, just throw a couple of large handfuls into the potatoes. Mix and knead with your hands.

Before you get working on the next step and finish the dough, set a pot of water on the stove and bring to a simmer.

Now, get out a large cutting board and sprinkle with flour. Remove the dough from the pot and place on the cutting board. Add the rest of the flour, or a few more handfuls, and knead until the dough is pliable but not sticky.

Gnocchi Dough

Gnocchi Dough

Once you think the dough is the right consistency, start grabbing chunks and rolling them into 3/4 inch sausage-like shapes. Make sure to use flour when rolling out the dough so it won’t stick to the cutting board.

Gnocchi Sausages?

Gnocchi Sausages?

Cut the gnocchi into about 1 inch pieces, and use a fork to push a pattern into each. Place on baking sheets as you go.

Gnocchi on Baking Sheet

Almost there...

Once you have used up all the dough, add the gnocchi in small bunches to the water. Be careful to make sure the water doesn’t splatter up at you and burn you! Cook the gnocchi for a few minutes. You will know they are done when they rise to the top of the water.

Gnocchi Cooking

Gnocchi Cooking

Using a slotted spoon remove from the water and place in a serving dish.

After all the batches are done, top with sauce and some Parmesan cheese…serve!

Gnocchi with Marinara Sauce

The Finished Product!

Now, this meal is definitely one that you need helpers for. My roommates were great and pitched in to stir, mash, cut, and taste test! It is a lot of work, but definitely worth it. And unlike pasta or gnocchi from the store you don’t have anything processed added, it is all really healthy and fresh! So if you are feeling ambitious one night, definitely give it a try.

Marinara Sauce (adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 tsp olive oil

1 medium leek, finely chop the white part only

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

28 oz can italian-style tomatoes

1 tbsp sugar

6 oz fat-free evaporated milk

2 tbsp basil, fresh and finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried oregano)

Salt to taste


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat

Add leeks and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until soft, add in oregano and cook for 1 more minute

Add in tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer then partially cover and let simmer for 3-5 more minutes

Remove from heat and in small batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth

Return to saucepan over low heat, add in milk and salt and bring to a simmer

Stir in basil, serve

Yields about 8, 2/3 cup servings

Gnocchi (adapted from Weight Watchers)

2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes

1 medium egg

10 oz flour

Salt to taste


Add potatoes to a large pot with 2 tsps salt and cover with cold water

Bring to a simmer and cover, cooking for 20 minutes or until tender

Drain potatoes

Using a sharp knife, and holding the potatoes with a towel, peel the potatoes

Run the potatoes through a potato ricer or mash with a potato masher until there aren’t any lumps

Stir in the egg and some additional salt

Add in a few handfuls of flour, and mix withe your hands

Get out a large cutting board and cover with flour, also start a large pot of water simmering on the stove

Place potato mixture on the cutting board

Knead the dough, adding flour until the dough is pliable but not sticky

Grab handfuls of the dough and roll out into 3/4 inch sausage shapes

Cut in to 1 inch pieces and press a design in with a fork

Place pieces on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used up all the dough

Add pieces of dough to the pot of water in small batches

Let cook for about 3 minutes, the gnocchi will rise to the top of the water when done

Scoop out the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish, repeating until all the pieces are cooked

Top with tomato sauce and Parmesan and serve!

Yields 8 servings


Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins May 19, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Breakfast — Nikki Wegner @ 6:18 pm

Growing up my mom used to make the most delicious lemon poppy seed bread. I always used to love to eat the middle piece as soon as it was out of the oven because it was always perfectly delicious. A little bratty maybe, but so worth it.

Of course, my mom’s version of lemon poppy seed bread is not the healthiest, nor is it conducive to portion control. I literally can eat half a loaf in one sitting, yikes. Muffins though, are perfectly sized for my inability to control myself.

And these are not only healthy, but super easy to make!

Since my camera battery  died while I was making them I won’t bore you with step by step instructions, but here is the finished product.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

One thing to note. Every time I’ve made these I seem to have enough batter for 14 muffins, not 12, so if you have an extra muffin pan on hand, it might come in handy! Or you can just tempt fate and overfill them, though I don’t recommend it.

These are the perfect grab and go breakfast to eat at work. They also freeze well too. I just wrap them in some aluminum foil after they have cooled, put them all in a freezer bag, and toss in the freezer. They can last in there about a month. In the morning, just take one out and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds and you have a yummy breakfast.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp table salt

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk

2 tbsps butter or margarine, melted

1 large egg, lightly beaten


Pre-heat oven to 400°

Place 12 muffin cups in a muffin tin

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir well with a whisk

Stir in zested lemon rind and poppy seeds

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the buttermilk and butter, whisk together

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture

Pour  the buttermilk mixture into the well slowly

Whisk mixtures together until flour is moist

Divide batter into the muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full

Bake 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes

Remove from pan and let muffins finish cooling on a wire rack

Yields 12 (or 14) muffins


Baked Tilapia with Garlic-Parm Mashed Potatoes May 18, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Seafood/Fish,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 11:07 am
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Growing up in Wisconsin it is impossible to not be obsessed with the Friday Night Fish Fry tradition! Deep fried, beer battered Cod with tartar sauce,  a side of fries and coleslaw and of course a micro-brew. Yum.

But the classic fish fry is definitely the antithesis of healthy! I was craving one after talking to my dad the other night. He was telling my about this great place my mom and him went to last week and it made me nostalgic. I decided to attempt to recreate the same type of meal at home, fish and potatoes, just a bit on the lighter-side.

I decided to go with Tilapia for the fish. Not only because it is a very healthy protein source, low in fat and sodium, but also because it is super easy to make!

All you do is spray a baking dish with some cooking spray, add in the fish, squeeze on some fresh lemon juice, add a few pats of butter  substitute (I use Brummel and Brown) and sprinkle with some garlic and salt (or just use garlic salt).

Tilapia Ready for Baking

Tilapia Ready for Baking

Simply set the oven to about 375°, place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Baked Tilapia with Lemon

Baked Tilapia with Lemon

As a side dish, instead of french fries, I whipped up some healthy mashed potatoes. Instead of using gobs of butter, which tastes great but way ups the calorie and fat count, I found a recipe that uses low-fat buttermilk to get that creamy texture.

While the fish is cooking, boil a large pot of water. Quarter about 2 1/2 lbs of red potatoes and add to the pot of boiling water, making sure the potatoes are covered with about 1 inch of water. Bring the pot back to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let boil for about 30 minutes.

Potatoes Boiling

Potatoes Boiling

One the potatoes are fork tender, drain and return to the pot. Mash potatoes to desired consistency. Add in buttermilk, chives, garlic, parmesan and salt to taste. Just mix everything together and if you decide you want them a bit creamier, add a little more buttermilk.

Parm-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Parm-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Put everything on the plate, with a few slices of lemon for the fish if you like, and you have a healthier version of the traditional fish fry!

Tilapia and Mashed Potatoes

Tilapia and Mashed Potatoes

But obviously, who am I kidding, this is not the same as a traditional Wisco fish fry extravaganza, nothing can take the place of that, but this might hold of your craving for a bit!

Baked Tilapia with Lemon (own recipe)

1 lb Tilapia filets

Cooking spray

4 tbsps lemon juice, fresh

1 tbsp butters substitute (I use Brummel and Brown)

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt to Taste


Pre-heat oven to 375°

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray

Rinse tilapia fillets with cold water and pat dry

Place in the baking dish

Squeeze on lemon juice

Add pats of butter, garlic and salt

Bake for 30 minutes, until fork tender

Yields 4 servings

Parm-Garlic Mashed Potatoes (adapted from Weight Watchers)

10 medium red potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs), quartered

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chives, chopped

3 tbsps parmesan, shredded

Salt to taste


Boil a large pot of water

Add quartered potatoes, making sure they are covered with 1 inch of water

Bring water back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until potatoes are fork tender

Drain potatoes and return to the pot

Mash potatoes

Add in buttermilk, garlic, chives and parmesan and stir

Add additional buttermilk if you want the potatoes a bit creamier

Yields 8 servings (about 2/3 cup per serving)


Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes and Mozzarella May 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nikki Wegner @ 10:41 am

After a long day at work, all I want to do when I get home is make a quick dinner, grab a glass of red wine (most likely out of a jug of Yellowtail)  and plop on the couch and watch bad TV. Sad, but true.

This recipe for pasta with marinated tomatoes and mozzarella definitely fit my criteria for a weeknight meal, quick, easy and healthy.

All you have to do is chop up some tomatoes and onions, add some olive oil, mozzarella, basil and salt. I didn’t have fresh basil unfortunately, it went bad over the course of the week, so instead I just used a basil herb blend I keep in the fridge just in case!

Marinating Tomatoes

Tomatoes & Mozzarella...Yum!

And let that marinate for 10 minutes while you cook up some pasta.

Then blend everything together. Now I didn’t make the tomato mixture quick enough for it to marinate for long enough before the pasta was cooked, and I didn’t want it to get cold.

So I just tossed the pasta in the bowl with the marinating tomatoes and mozzarella and covered it with plastic wrap to keep it warm for about 8-10 minutes.

Keeping it warm

Keeping it warm

Then just stir it all together, divide into bowls and serve!

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes and Mozzarella (adapted from Real Simple)

1 1/2 lbs beefsteak tomatoes, diced

1/2 small sweet onion, diced

2 tbsps olive oil

8 ounces fresh mozzarella (bocconcini size), quartered

Salt to taste

8 oz fettuccine

1/2 cup basil, torn or 1 tbsp basil blend


In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, olive oil, salt

Set aside, let marinate for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions

Drain, add pasta and basil to the bowl, stir

Divide among bowls, serve

Yields 4 servings


Brown Rice Salad with Feta May 12, 2010

Filed under: Lunch,Salad,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 10:57 pm
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I am always looking for healthy, easy salads to throw together after work or bring for lunch that are break from just some lettuce and dressing.

When I visited my boss and her new baby the other week her mom made us a great brown rice salad with feta, it was delicious! So I decided to give it a try at home, with a few additions/subtractions and whatever vegetables I had in the fridge/freezer.

One thing that makes this super easy to throw together is the use of pre-cooked frozen rice that you simply steam in the microwave. The rice turns out great, just as if you perfectly cooked it on the stove, without all the time, mess and potential for overcooking, burning, etc.

To get started, I microwaved the shelled frozen edamame and prepped all the other veggies, tossing them in a large bowl.



Next, prepare the brown rice according to the package directions in the microwave. While the rice is cooking, it should probably take about 4 minutes, whisk together the dressing. I used some olive oil, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, basil paste and garlic.

Lemon & Oil Dressing

Lemon & Oil Dressing

Carefully take the brown rice out of the microwave, it will be hot, and add to the bowl with the veggies. Mix together, add the feta, and mix again.

Brown Rice Salad

Brown Rice Salad

If you plan on eating the salad all at once/serving at a party, add the dressing and mix well. If you are making the salad ahead or dividing into smaller portions for meals, keep the dressing in a separate container and add as you go. This will make the salad last longer and ensure it doesn’t go bad!

This is definitely a salad I will recreate again and again. Maybe with different vegetables, or a different type of cheese, but it is great salad to toss together one night and use for the week!

Brown Rice Salad with Feta

1 package microwave steamed brown rice (2 cups cooked)

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup red onions, diced

1 cup snow peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 1/2 cups shelled edamame

3.5 ounces reduced-fat feta

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsps lemon juice, fresh

2 tbsps water

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tsp basil herb blend (I used Gourmet Gardens)

salt to taste


If using frozen edamame, prepare according to package directions

Combine prepped tomatoes, red onion, snow peas, cucumber and edamame in a large bowl

Cook brown rice according to package directions in the microwave

In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, water, olive oil, garlic, salt and basil blend

Whisk until combined

Add rice to large bowl, mix

Add feta to bowl, mix

Add dressing and stir together if serving/eating all at once, or divide into containers for lunch, keeping the dressing separate

Yields 4 servings (about 1 1/2 cups salad, 1 1/2 tbsps dressing)


Chicken with Garlic Sauce and Spinach-Mushroom Saute May 10, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , ,

Growing up we ate chicken all the time, not that I am complaining Mom! Grilled, baked, roasted, beer can (which is great and you should try!), you name it, we ate it.

So when I found a recipe for chicken that you first pan-sear and then bake in the oven for a bit, something completely new to me,  I of course had to give it a try. Plus, the mention of garlic sauce and I was sold.

Preparing the chicken is so easy. All you do is give it a rub with a bunch of spices.


Chicken covered in spices

Then you sear it in an oiled pan for two minutes on each side.

You add some chicken broth and garlic cloves and toss in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Chicken in oven

Chicken in the oven

Be super careful when you remove it though, you will forget the handle is hot on the pan, or at least I did! I kept trying to grab it, of course, but luckily I managed not to do any damage, so keep your oven mit on.

After the chicken is done cooking, remove the chicken onto a plate/platter and add a bit more chicken broth. Crush the garlic cloves with a fork and let simmer for a few minutes.

Garlic Sauce

Garlic Sauce

The sauce is really delicious, and is a great combination of the chicken flavors and spices. Now I know that looks like a ton of garlic, but it really absorbs the broth and I swear, you won’t finish with horrible garlic breath!

To go along with the chicken, I decided to saute up some spinach and mushrooms.

I cooked the mushrooms for a bit with some olive oil cooking spray, salt and thyme, then added some lemon juice and spinach.

Spinach and Mushrooms

Spinach and Mushrooms

I just let everything cook together for a while on medium heat, and it was a great side dish for the chicken.

Pan Seared Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms

Pan-Seared Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms

This meal is super healthy, while also being very filling.  I almost didn’t have room for a chocolate chip cookie, though I managed to make room!

Pan-seared Chicken with Garlic Sauce (adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp thyme, dried

1 tsp rosemary, dried

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 4-ounce pieces

12 medium garlic cloves, peeled and halved

1 cup fat-free chicken broth, reduced sodium, divided


Pre-heat oven to 450°

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, mix

Sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with the spice mixture

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat

Cook chicken 2 minutes on each side

Add garlic and 3/4 cup of broth

Place pan in oven and bake chicken for 10 minutes, or until cooked through

Remove skillet from oven and place chicken on a platter

Return pan to stove top and heat, adding 1/4 cup of remaining broth

Mash garlic with a fork

Cook sauce for 2 minutes, or until thoroughly heated, stirring

Serve by spooning 2 tbsp of sauce on each piece of chicken

Yields 4 servings

Spinach and Mushroom Saute (own recipe)

2 cups mushrooms

4 cups spinach

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp lemon juice

dried Thyme and Salt to taste

Olive oil cooking spry


Spray a large skillet with olive oil cooking spray

Add mushrooms, salt and thyme and saute for about 4 minutes

Add lemon juice, garlic and spinach

Cook until mushrooms are soft and spinach has wilted

Yields 2 servings