Eating My Way Through

Mexican Black Bean Tostada Salad July 26, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Lunch,Salad — Nikki Wegner @ 3:45 pm

I decided to give this Mexican Black Bean Tostada Salad  a try after a lovely day of being on the water and cooking out at a friend’s house near Annapolis. Sometimes getting out of DC, even just for a day, and enjoying a quieter and relaxing setting is all you need to recharge!

The outing put me in the mood for something that was light, yet flavorful. Plus, I was sent home with a bag full of  corn on the cob that I needed to use up asap.

This recipe is a quick (10 minutes tops), easy (all you have to do is chop and measure) and healthy meal! It will definitely become a staple in my post-work dinner/lunch the next day routine as it  allows me to indulge in my love of Latin flavors and taco salads without lots of calories/a tummy ache a few hours later.

All you do for this one is drain and rinse some black beans, and then chop up some red onions, garlic, jicama, avocado,  and grape tomatoes. You combine all of this in a large bowl and add in some corn removed from the cob and canned green chiles.

Yummy Veggies

Yummy Veggies

Then you toss in some lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro, olive oil, cumin and salt and stir together to dress the veggies.

Dressed Veggies

Dressed Veggies

Then simply toast a corn tortilla in a toaster oven until crisped.

Serve the salad on top of the tortilla and with a little bit of sour cream.

Mexican Black Bean Tostada Salad

Mexican Black Bean Tostada Salad

That’s it. Simplest. Meal. Ever. And it is really delicious. The perfect no-cook meal for this oppressive DC heat wave we have been suffering through!

Mexican Black Bean Tostada Salad (from Weight Watchers)

1 cup black beans, canned, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp red onions, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup jicama, diced

1/4 cup corn kernels, removed from cob or frozen

1/4 cup avocado, diced

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

4 tbsp green chilies, canned and diced

3 tbsp lime juice, fresh

2 tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin, ground

Salt, to taste

4 small corn tortillas


Combine all ingredients, minus the tortillas in a large bowl, mix to combine

Toast tortillas in a toaster oven or in a dry skillet

Top each tortilla with salad mixture

Yields 4 servings, 1 tortilla topped with 3/4 cup of salad


Chicken with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce July 23, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 4:22 pm

Okay…I’m back. And I really don’t have a good excuse! I am finally updating with something I made last week Wednesday with the help of my lovely friend Jamie at her place. It is starting to get busier and busier at work, so my posting might be a bit spotty as my laziness post-work kicks in; but I will try to be better!

Jamie is a self-proclaimed non-cook, so we picked something easy for our first foray into making dinner together,  and I must say it turned out pretty good! We made Chicken with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce and served it over some microwaved brown rice, my fave short cut.

For this dish you need a large skillet with a lid. Unfortunately Jamie and I got started before realizing this, so we improvised with a cutting board instead! To start, heat a bit of oil in the skillet. Add garlic and let crisp up. While the garlic is cooking season your chicken with some salt and thyme. After a minute or so, add in the chicken to saute.

Chicken Cooking

Chicken Cooking

Obviously raw chicken isn’t the most appetizing of pics, but it is all part of the process!

Anyways, when the chicken is browned on all sides, it should take about 3-5 minutes, you add in the broccoli.

Chicken and Broccoli

Chicken and Broccoli

Cover with the lid, or cutting board in our case, and let cook together for about 2 minutes. Then you add in some chicken broth and recover for about 5 minutes.

Adding the Chicken Broth

Adding the Chicken Broth

While this is simmering, in a cup dissolve cornstarch in the remaining broth, stirring until combined.

Add to the chicken and broccoli in the skillet. Let simmer, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until thickened. Once the sauce is thickened, dish the mixture into bowls with some brown rice and serve with soy sauce.

Chicken with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce

Chicken with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce

This was a great quick and easy weeknight meal. Jamie and I followed the recipe exactly, and I think next time I would reduce the amount of broth as it never really quite thickened as much as we hoped! The recipe below reflects what we made, but use your judgment when adding the broth as you cook and reduce if you think necessary.

Chicken with Broccoli and Garlic Sauce (from Weight Watchers)

2 tsp olive oil

1 lb chicken, boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups broccoli, cut into florets

1 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided

1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

2 cups brown rice, cooked or microwaved


Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat

On a plate or in a bowl, sprinkle chicken with thyme and salt, set aside

Add garlic to skillet and let cook 1-2 minutes

Add chicken and stir,  cooking for about 3 minutes or until chicken is browned on all sides

Toss in broccoli and cover skillet, cooking 2 minutes

Remove cover and add in 1 cup broth, re-cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through

While everything is cooking, dissolve cornstarch in remaining 1/2 cup of broth

Remove cover from skillet and add in cornstarch/broth mixture

Stir constantly, Simmering for about 1-3 minutes, or until sauce is thickened

Serve over brown rice

Yields about 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup chicken per serving


Salty Oatmeal Cookies July 14, 2010

Filed under: Treats — Nikki Wegner @ 4:16 pm

There is a chain of tea houses in DC called Teaism that I adore. They have a great lunch menu and really delicious baked goods. Sometimes on the weekends I will set out on a pilgrimage to the one near my house to get their iced Japanese sweet green tea… I have convinced myself that it cures hangovers, or at least makes them a bit better.

But the tea and its magic powers aren’t even the best thing about Teaism, it’s is their Salted Oatmeal Cookies.  These cookies are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, something I always crave. They are chewy, yet have a nice crunch, and always seem to hit the spot.

So this weekend I set out on a mission to recreate them/find the recipe. A writer from the Washington Post had the same thought a few years ago, and it seems Teaism’s recipe is top-secret which of course isn’t surprising. But, they did come up with something close that I used as a guide. I made a few more changes myself, substituting light butter, using dark brown sugar and adding in some nutmeg, and am happy to report the cookies were a big hit!

To start, you whip the butter until it is nice and fluffy with a mixer. If you have one of those amazing Kitchen Aid mixers that you usually only get when you register for a wedding and I covet/want desperately, use that! Unfortunately, I was operating with my slightly crappy, might break any day hand mixer I got for like $6 at Target, oh well.

Fluffy Butter

Fluffy Butter

Then you add in the sugars, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat some more. Then add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat until nice and creamy.

Yummy Batter

Yummy Batter

All you have to do then, is add in the flour and rolled oats.

Flour and Rolled Oats

Flour and Rolled Oats

Mix that in on a low speed (otherwise you will have a giant flour cloud/mess on your hands). Then you cover the batter with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for about an hour. Part of the trick is trying to resist eating most of the batter before you can make the actual cookies!

Once the batter is done chilling, remove from the fridge and form into cookies. Sprinkle each cookie with a generous shake, or five, of sea salt. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Salty Oatmeal Cookies

Salty Oatmeal Cookies

And there you have ’em! Obviously these cookies didn’t come out tasting just like the ones at Teaism. But, they are pretty close and pretty tasty. They are a really nice twist on the classic oatmeal cookie, and might have to enter into my rotation of cookies I use to soften up/bribe my co-workers with!

Salted Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Washington Post)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) light butter, at room temperature

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2  eggs, large

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

2 cups rolled oats

Sea salt, for sprinkling


In a large mixing bowl, whip butter with a mixer until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes

Add in sugars, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and nutmeg, mixing until combined on medium-high

Add in eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined on medium high

On a low speed, mix in flour and oats until batter is well combined

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, let chill in the fridge for 1 hour

Just before the hour is up, pre-heat your oven to 375º

Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or if you don’t have it, spray baking sheets with cooking spray

Place cookies on baking sheets, sprinkle generously with sea salt

Bake cookies for 15 minutes, being careful not to overbake

Remove cookies from pan, or simply pick up the parchment paper if used, and place on a wire rack to cool

Yields 24 cookies


Shrimp Fajitas with Homemade Salsa July 12, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Seafood/Fish,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 4:35 pm

This weekend I was craving Mexican food, a common occurrence for me! I just love the crisp, spicy flavors, usually accompanied by a large serving of melty cheese; guilty pleasure much?

But instead of defaulting to my old standby of a cheese quesadilla with whatever salsa I could find in the fridge, I decided to go a little bit healthier and make my own salsa and a batch of shrimp fajitas.

For the salsa, instead of just chopping up the tomatoes like I usually do, I used the same technique I did for the enchilada sauce on Cinco de Mayo. I boiled a pot of water, cut an x in the bottoms of the tomatoes and tossed them in the hot pot of water for about 45 seconds-1 minute. I removed them and placed them in a bowl of ice water to cool.

Cooling Tomatoes

Cooling Tomatoes

After they are cool enough, simply peel them and cut them into slices.

To finish up the salsa, I placed the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, onions and spices in my food chopper.

Veggies for Chopping

Veggies for Chopping

Pulse a few times until chopped. Add the tomatoes and chop until the consistency you want.



And voila! A quick, healthy and easy salsa with just the right amount of kick. I am weak and like my salsa mild to medium, but if you want to give it even more heat, try adding different kinds of peppers or more chipotle chili powder.

For the fajitas I was looking for a recipe that just didn’t call for using fajita seasoning you buy at the store, which is surprisingly hard to find! I wanted something with a little bit of citrus to complement the shrimp and spices to give the fajitas nice flavor. After some digging I found a great recipe from Paula Deen on The Food Network Site. I decided to adapt it a bit and cut down on the oil and add a spice or two.

To start, you make a marinade for the shrimp and let them marinate in the  fridge for about 15 minutes.

Shrimp Marinating

Shrimp Marinating

While the shrimp is marinating, chop up some onion and bell peppers. Toss them in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkle the veggies with chili powder and some garlic salt.

Fajita Veggies

Fajita Veggies

Cook until the veggies are crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking then, don’t forget to stir,  remove the shrimp from the fridge and just place them on the grill for about 2-3 minutes, turning half way through.

Grilling Shrimps

Grilling Shrimps

When everything is done cooking, simply heat up some tortillas in the microwave, divide up the shrimp and veggies, and serve with your salsa and some non-fat sour cream.

Shrimp Fajitas with Salsa

Shrimp Fajitas with Salsa

To make these a bit healthier, I resisted the urge to top them with cheese and guacamole, but feel free to if you are in the mood!

This recipe was painless and super quick, something that could easily be done on the fly after a long day of work. I even brought leftovers for lunch and they reheated really well. Next time I am craving Mexican, I think I will give these another shot, swapping in Chicken for the shrimp and maybe playing with the combination of spices a bit more!

Nikki’s Salsa (own recipe)

2 large tomatoes

1 garlic clove

Juice of 1 lime

1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped

1/4 sweet onion

1/4 red onion

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

Dash of chipotle chili powder



Boil a pot of water and prepare a large bowl with ice water

Cut an x in the bottom of the tomatoes with a knife

Place tomatoes in the boiling water for about 45 seconds to a minute

Remove tomatoes from water and place in the ice bath

Once the tomatoes are cooled, remove skins and cut tomatoes up

Place the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, onions, spices and salt in a food processor or blender, and pulse until chopped

Add in tomatoes and blend until desired consistency

Shrimp Fajitas (adapted from Paula Deen and The Food Network)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsps lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

Dash of chipotle chile pepper


1 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and devined

1 sweet onion, sliced

1 red and 1 green bell pepper, sliced

Red Pepper

Garlic Salt

Cooking Spray

8 Flour tortillas


Combine first 8 ingredients in a resealable plastic bag, seal and shake until combined

Add shrimp, seal and shake until shrimp is coated

Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes to marinade

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, and add in onion and peppers, and sprinkle vegetables with red pepper and garlic salt

Cook veggies over medium-high heat until crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes

Heat grill to medium-high heat, place shrimp on grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes, flipping once

Wrap tortillas in paper towel and heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds

Assemble fajitas with shrimp and veggies and choice of toppings (guac, sour cream, salsa, etc.)

Yields 8 servings


Crab Cakes with Remoulade and Grilled Asparagus July 9, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Seafood/Fish,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 2:21 pm

Living in DC you see crab cakes on almost every restaurant’s  menu. With Maryland and its many crabs so close, they are everywhere!

And don’t get my wrong, I love crab cakes and I’m not complaining. They are pretty delicious, and I am always tempted to order them when out. But the catch is that they aren’t exactly going to be the healthy choice nine times out of ten.

I came across this recipe recently which greatly reduces the sodium and fat by cutting out lots of the traditional fillers and nixing some stuff from the remoulade sauce and swapping in some stronger-flavored spices and using low-fat mayo!

To start, you mix up what will hold the crab cakes together: chives, parsley, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, red pepper and garlic salt.

Mixture to hold together the crab cakes

Mixture to hold together the crab cakes

Then you add in some bread crumbs and the crab. (I forgot to take a picture of the mixture…whoops!)

Once it is all mixed, cover with plastic wrap and toss in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While everything is chilling, make the remoulade. All you have to do is combine some mayo, chopped shallots, dijon mustard, lemon juice, chipotle pepper, garlic salt and regular salt. Whisk that all together and you get…



Once the crab mixture is done chilling, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup and scoop and pack some of the mixture into it. Invert it on to a flat surface and pat down slightly. Repeat until you have 8 patties.

Crab Cake Patties

Crab Cake Patties

Heat 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet, and place 4 patties in there. Cook 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Crispy Crab Cakes

Crispy Crab Cakes

Remove from skillet, and repeat with remaining for crab cakes.

For the asparagus, I simply sprayed them with olive oil spray and sprinkled with salt, and tossed on my little George Foreman Grill for about 4 minutes.

Asparagus Grilling

Asparagus Grilling

Then you just plate everything together and serve!

Crab Cakes with Remolade and Asparagus

Crab Cakes with remoulade and Asparagus

The crab cakes turned out to be really light with a nice crunch outside, and the sauce has a nice kick to it! It doesn’t taste exactly like what you might get at a restaurant, but a bit of old bay seasoning might have done the trick!

This is a great meal to whip up for friends, as you can make the crab cake mixture and remoulade in advance!

Crab Cakes with Remoulade (adapted from Cooking Light)

Crab Cakes:

2 tbsps fresh chives, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 1/2 tbsps low-fat mayonnaise

1/2 tsp lemon zest, grated

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/8 tsp ground cayenne (red) pepper

1 large egg

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 lb lump crabmeat

1 tbsp olive oil, divided


1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1 tbsp chopped shallots

2 tsps dijon mustard

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1/8 tsp kosher salt


Combine the first 8 ingredients for the crab cakes in a medium bowl and whisk until combined

Add in breadcrumbs and crab, and mix gently to combine

Cover the mixture and place in the fridge for 30 minutes

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients listed for the remoulade and stir with a whisk until well combined. Put in the fridge to chill while you cook up the crab cakes.

Remove the crab cakes from the fridge, and fill a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup with the crab mixture. Invert onto a work surface and gently pat. Repeat until all of the crab mixture is used up, should make about 8 crab cakes.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 1/2 tsps oil over medium-high heat. Place crab cakes, about 4, in the pan.

Cook each crab cake for about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Set crab cakes aside, and repeat with remaining oil and crab cakes.

Yields 4 servings (2 crab cakes and about 1 1/2 tbsps per serving)


Spinach and Artichoke Dip July 5, 2010

Filed under: Appetizers,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 1:15 pm

One of my indulgences when I go out to eat are appetizers. Order me some nachos, potato skins, mozzarella sticks, you name it if it is under apps, I will want to eat it! But one of my all-time favorites is Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Who can say they don’t like those yummy veggies combined with gooey cheese, it’s heavenly. Of course the dip doesn’t exactly fall into the healthy column.

When my friend Val came to visit from NYC,  instead of going out like normal 20-somethings on a Friday night, her, my roommate Sarah and I decided to stay in, drink way too much wine, and make a supposedly healthy version of Spinach and Artichoke dip that she found for dinner.

To start, pre-heat the oven and saute the rinsed spinach until wilted.

Spinach Sauteing

Spinach Sauteing

When the spinach is done, toss in a colander and let drain/squeeze out some of the excess water.

While the spinach is draining, in a large bowl combine the various cream cheeses with a potato masher and add in the sour cream. Toss in the mozzarella, artichoke hearts, garlic and some of the Parmesan, and stir to combine everything.

Then toss in the spinach.

Mixing the Dip

Mixing the Dip

Mix everything together and place in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, spreading out evenly. Top with the remaining Parmesan.

Dip ready for Baking

Dip ready for Baking

Toss it in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese on top is brown and crispy and the inside is gooey and melty.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I am happy to report that this recipe might be one of my new favorite things! It has all the cheesy goodness of spinach and artichoke dip, with about half the guilt. It was so delicious and would be the perfect appetizer to bring to/serve at a game-watching party or even a dinner party. It is that good that people might overlook that it is not the classiest of apps.

My roommate and I have also decided that when one of us has a bad day, the other is required to run to the store and grab all the ingredients, plus a bottle of wine, so we can eat our feelings when we get home. Not exactly healthy to eat the whole thing, but ya know, emotionally it might just do the trick!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (from Serious Eats, adapted from Cooking Light)

10 oz bag of spinach, stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces

6 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

6 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella, shredded

14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered and drained

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 tbsps Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided


Pre-heat oven to 350°

Rinse torn spinach in a colander, leaving a little bit of water on the leaves

Saute spinach in a large sauce pan until wilted

Drain spinach in a colander, squeezing out excess water

In a large bowl, combine cream cheeses using a potato masher

Add in sour cream and mash in

Stir in mozzarella, artichoke hearts, garlic and 2 tbsps Parmesan

Pour mixture into 1 1/2 quart baking dish and spread out evenly

Top with remaining Parmesan cheese

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until Parmesan on top is crispy and the cheese is bubbly.

Remove the dip from the oven and let sit for a few minutes.

Serve with pita chips or tortilla chips.


Spiced Mini Turkey Burgers with Tahini Couscous Salad July 1, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Salad — Nikki Wegner @ 1:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am a big fan of the magazine  Real Simple, and their extensive collection of easy, yet delicious recipes. Unfortunately they aren’t always the healthiest of concoctions, but I’ve found with a few fixes that I can usually tweak them into something that is not only good, but good for you!

Once such recipe was for Spiced Mini Burgers with Couscous Salad. The recipe originally called for ground beef and pan-cooking the burgers in olive oil, as well as using a bunch of olive oil for the dressing on the couscous salad. I changed it up by using ground turkey, grilling the burgers using olive oil cooking spray, and adding in some tahini to cut down the olive oil. The result was a something light and satisfying that also got me through my every other week craving for a juicy, probably bad for me burger!

To start, pre-heat your grill, and mix the ground turkey with spices in a bowl, and form into 12 mini patties.

Mini Turkey Burger Patties

Mini Turkey Burger Patties

Spray your grill with some olive oil cooking spray, then toss the burgers on the grill, cooking for about 8 minutes and flipping half-way through.

Turkey Burgers

Turkey Burgers

Because these are mini-burgers and they are a bit thinner, you don’t have to cook them extra long. Be careful not to over cook them, otherwise they can get pretty dry…and lose all their juice.

For the couscous salad boil 1 cup water with some salt, stir in couscous, remove from heat and cover. Let the grains sit for about 4-5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Place the couscous in a large bowl and add scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers. Add in the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste. Then just mix everything up.

Tahini Couscous Salad

Tahini Couscous Salad

Then all you have to do is divide the mini burgers and salad up amongst 4 plates and serve! This was a great complete meal, a little protein, some grains and lots of yummy veggies. It also kept well for left overs and I have been enjoying it for lunch all week!

Spiced Mini Turkey Burgers with Tahini Couscous Salad

Spiced Mini Turkey Burgers with Tahini Couscous Salad

As I cook more and read more recipes, I have come to realize that if a recipe looks delicious but seems too unhealthy or like too much of a hassle, don’t just cast it aside! Take a look and see if you can make substitutions, cut down on a few steps or take a few shortcuts with some of the ingredients. I would say 9 times out of 10 there is a way to make it work for you!

Spiced Mini Turkey Burgers with Tahini Couscous Salad (adapted from Real Simple)

1 cup couscous, dry

1 lb ground turkey

1 tsp garlic salt

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp oregano

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp tahini

6 scallions, diced

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, sliced into half-moons

3 tbsps lemon juice, fresh


For the Burgers…

Pre-heat grill

In a bowl, combine turkey with garlic salt, cumin and oregano

Form into 12 mini burger patties

Spray grill with olive oil or regular cooking spray, and place burgers on the grill

Cook burgers about 8 minutes, flipping half-way through until cooked through

For the couscous…

In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup water with some salt

Once water is boiling stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat

Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then fluff with fork

Combine couscous in a large bowl with scallions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste

Plate mini burgers with couscous salad

Yields 4 servings (3 mini burgers and about 1 1/2  cups couscous salad)