Eating My Way Through

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Pasta Salad September 18, 2010

Filed under: Lunch,Salad,Veggies — Nikki Wegner @ 5:40 pm
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I actually brought this pasta salad to a barbecue over labor day…so yeah, been awhile since I posted/really cooked…but with work crazy right now, I am lucky if I make cereal for dinner! And instead of cooking today and building up a few reserve posts, I have spent it on the couch, watching  football and per usual yelling at the television . Maybe tomorrow…

Anyways, sometimes you just need something quick and easy to throw together for a party or get together. This pasta salad is super easy and requires minimal time and ingredients. So it’s perfect for a last minute dish to bring along to a friend’s house.

First things first, make the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, prep the dressing by combining vinegar, oil, garlic and oregano in a container.



Shake well!

Then combine with the tomatoes and a large bowl and let marinate while the pasta cooks.

Marinating Tomatoes

Marinating Tomatoes

Once the pasta has been drained and cooled, combine with the tomatoes. Add in the mozzarella as well and stir to make sure everything is nice and combined. Salt to taste.

Let the pasta salad chill until ready to serve. Before serving add in the basil.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Pasta Salad

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Pasta Salad

That’s it. Simple, easy and delicious!

If you are going to a large get together, simply double the recipe and you are good to go. The salad will also keep for a day or two in the fridge, but after that it will probably go bad due to the dressing.

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Pasta Salad (own recipe)

8 oz spiral pasta of some kind

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp oregano, dried

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup basil, chopped

2 oz mozzarella, fresh, cubed (1/2 cup)

Salt to taste


Cook pasta according to package directions

Drain pasta, set aside

In a container with a secure lid, combine vinegar, oil, salt, garlic and oregano; shake well to combine

Put tomatoes in a large bowl, dress with above mixture and toss to coat

Add in pasta and mozzarella, mix well

Salt to taste

Chill pasta salad

Add in basil right before serving

Yields 4, 1 cup servings


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

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


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)


Didn’t I always want red walls in my kitchen? April 5, 2010

Filed under: Soups — Nikki Wegner @ 11:11 pm
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Just as it’s starting to get warm in DC, I am going to post about soup, not exactly appropriate, but still yummy!

And funny. Since my first attempt at making tomato soup ended up in one of my funnier kitchen snafus. Unfortunately there aren’t any pictures of the disaster I made of the kitchen and myself, since this was pre-blog, but hopefully you will get the picture…

I love tomato soup, but finding a recipe that has lots of flavor, and isn’t a ton of work was surprisingly challenging. I just bought one of Ellie Krieger’s cookbooks and her recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup popped out at me. Everything was going great; kitchen smelled amazing, veggies were tasting delicious…and then I attempted to blend all the ingredients together.

My mom gave me an immersion blender for St. Nick’s and I was super excited to use it for the first time! Never mind that it was a Biggest Loser branded blender…Mom, were you trying to tell me something? Anyways, I went to go use it and it broke, spewing oil all over my hands and shirt, but luckily I saved the soup! Attempt #1 at blending=Fail.

Not to be discouraged I figured I could just use our normal blender. No big deal right? Well I made another epic fail, attempting to blend while the soup was still hot! Did you know heat breaks the seal on things? If you didn’t join the club. If you did, I am sure you know what happened next!

Just like out of a movie, soup started flying everywhere, the walls were covered, my pajamas were covered, cause who doesn’t make soup in their pjs right? My roommates were trying not to laugh at me as they sat on the couch watching. But I am sure I looked a hot mess.

Not to be deterred, I let the ingredients cool, then managed to successfully use the blender to finish the soup. Victory! And it ended up tasting great. So all the hilarity was worth it. Though I am still finding red splotches on tour kitchen’s white walls…

And just for fun, here is a recipe for French Onion Soup too! It is one of my favorites, and the combination of caramelized onions and Gruyere from Cowgirl Creamery, my favorite cheese shop in DC (cause every good Wisconsin girl has to find a cheese shop no matter where she is living) was delicious. This recipe is also low in carbs and calories, as I left out croutons/bread, but feel free to add.

Roasted Tomato Soup (adapted from Ellie Krieger’s So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week)

7 Tomatoes, quartered

1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces

4 large garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp olive oil


Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, onions and garlic with oil, salt and pepper

Spread out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet

Roast vegetables for about 40 minutes, stirring at the 20 minute mark

In a large saucepan, 4 quarts, combine vegetables, broth, nutmeg, remaining salt and pepper

Bring mixture to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes

Remove from heat

If using an immersion blender, feel free to blend right away, if using a standing blender, let cool before blending!

Garnish with your favorite toppings

French Onion Soup (adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 bulb garlic

5 medium onions

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup dry red wine

4 cups fat-free beef broth

2 tbsp Worcestershire  sauce



Pre-heat oven to 350°

Wrap garlic bulb in foil, roast in oven for 45 minutes, let cool for 10 minutes

Remove foil, cut off top of the garlic bulb, and set aside cloves

While garlic is roasting, heat oil in very large skillet, add onions and start carmelizing

Stir onions occasionally until golden, about 45 minutes

Squeeze garlic cloves, adding pulp to onions, discard the skins

Stir onion and garlic mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute

In a large pot, about 4-quarts, combine onion and garlic mixture with broth, Worcestershire sauce and wine

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes

Top with cheese and serve