Sunday, July 28, 2013

DIY Iced Coffee

I put in some time as a barista during my senior year of high school, and I have pretty much been a coffee fiend ever since. I'm usually content to brew my own at home or the office in a good ol' fashioned Mr. Coffee. Once summer hits, though, nothing but sweet, sweet iced coffee will do, so for years I've been forking my cash over to local coffee houses and the ever present Starbucks conglomerate to scratch my caffeine itch. 

Thanks as always to Pinterest, I've tested a few different methods of cold brewing my own iced coffee concentrate, and I present to you my perfected recipe.

You'll need:
- a large pitcher, a large mixing bowl and a strainer
- 3/4 cup of ground coffee beans of your choosing
- 4 1/2 cups cold, filtered water

This is going to make about enough iced coffee concentrate to make yourself a morning iced coffee all week long.

In a large pitcher, dump in the ground coffee beans. Pour in 4 1/2 cups of cold, filtered water. Filtered is key here. If you've got a Britta or your fridge has a filtered water dispenser, you're good. Stir with a large mixing spoon until the coffee and water are well mixed. Over time, some of the ground coffee will float to the top - that's totally fine. I have yet to find a way to fight gravity, and it does not seem to have any affect on the final product.

Place the coffee and water mix in the fridge for at least 8 hours. I usually mix this Sunday night so it's ready for me Monday morning. 

Before filtering                                         After filtering

Once the mixture has set for at least 8 hours, it's ready for filtering. Pour the pitcher's contents through a strainer into a large mixing bowl, separating the grounds from the liquid coffee concentrate. Rinse the pitcher thoroughly so there are no grounds left. Filter the liquid coffee concentrate back into the clean pitcher. This is your coffee concentrate mix. 

The first strain.                                The second strain.

Note that you have now made iced coffee concentrate. It is concentrated, so you really don't want to drink it straight unless you like really, really strong coffee. What you do with the iced coffee concentrate from this point on is up to your personal taste. If you like strong, pure coffee, just pouring the concentrate over ice may be all you want. 

Here's my daily iced coffee recipe:

1) Take your personal travel tumbler or favorite tall glass. Add three large ice cubes.
2) Pour in 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk.
3) Add iced coffee concentrate to the top of the glass.
4) Stir in 1 tsp of agave nectar. Stir.
5) Drink during your walk to work. Come to the office ready to take on the world, all for 35 calories.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved: Perfect (and Healthier) Steak Frites

One of my favorite things in the entire universe is Steak Frites. I'm cheap and I'm a homebody and I like knowing at least the vague amount of calories I'm ingesting in this indulgent meal, so I've worked through many recipes to find the perfect way to prep a slightly healthier version of this French staple.

Image from Off The Meat Hook

This recipe from Off The Meat Hook walks you through how to properly prep your average grocery store steak to make it taste closer to what your favorite local steakhouse serves you. I'm now going to pull a full on Ina Garten move and suggest that you use good butter and good salt when prepping your steak. Really just use coarsely ground sea salt and grass fed butter (we all know my side gig as a fully unpaid and unauthorized Kerrygold spokewoman).

Next - I have a theory that every group of friends has a Gwyneth Paltrow apologist. In my inner circle, I am that friend. I subscribe to GOOP. I wonder if I have some weird food allergies no one is telling me about that if I simply corrected them and started doing two hours of dance cardio and arm wiggles each morning, I could become a Gwyneth-like wonder woman. I have some Tracy Anderson Method DVDs. I don't think Apple is a terrible name for a child. My Spanish pronunciations are also obnoxious attempts to sound native.

She is best friends with Jay-Z and Beyonce. Argument. Over.

I love many of Goop's recipes. They follow my philosophy - healthy, whole, fresh ingredients prepared simply. You know, for your average working gal like Gwynnie. So on the side of my steak (which non-red meat eating Gwyneth would never lower herself to, because she is stronger than we will ever be), I serve her perfect no-fry french fries.

Image from Self

The trick really is the cold shock to the potatoes. Sometimes, I throw in a leeeeetle extra olive oil because, again, whilst I try to follow the path Gwyneth lies before me, I can never quite attain her ultimate perfection. I like Taco Bell too much, for starters.

So that's it - my secret to perfect Steak Frites with a healthy nod. Trim that fat off your steaks, and be sure to serve this with a big side salad, and you can feel a little less guilty for your Francophile indulgence this time. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Baked Zucchini Parmesan for 200 calories

I love anything parmigiana style. Take any protein or easily coated vegetable, cover it in breadcrumbs and parmesan, and add marina liberally? Yup, I'm in. Here we use the humble and healthy zucchini to deliver a crispy, low calorie alternative to a deep fried and heavily cheese laden chicken version you'd order at your local trattoria.

You'll need:

  • 2 large zucchinis
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (whole wheat if you can find it)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • whites of 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup marinara

Serves two, 200 calories a serving. 
Note: Store bought marinara ranges from 30-50 calories for 1/4 cup if you want more for dipping!

Set the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the zucchini into roughly 1/2 inch thick slices. In a shallow dish, mix together the panko, parmesan, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, crack the eggs and add only the whites, discarding the yolks. Get out a baking sheet and lightly grease it with spray olive oil. Set up your assembly line and follow the following steps...

  1. Take one zucchini slice at a time, dip it in the egg white, letting some of the excess egg white slide off before moving on to the next step. 
  2. Dip the egg white coated zucchini into the panko mix, making sure each side is evenly coated. Shake off excess panko mixture. 
  3. Line complete, coated zucchini on the baking sheet so they do not touch until all are done. 
Once all the zucchini slices are ready, pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the panko coating looks golden brown. 

Serve with marinara for dipping on the side. If you want to get extra fancy, garnish with chopped, fresh basil and a little extra parmesan. This works great as a dinner with a small plate of pasta or salad on the side, or as an appetizer. I served these with a garden fresh caprese salad last week for a perfect light Italian summer dinner. Cin cin!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chipotle Lime Shrimp with Cotija Cheese Corn

It's summer. Time for fresh, quick and easy meals which is all I ever aim for to begin with. Today I'm bringing a creamy, cojita cheese corn salad with chipotle lime shrimp, all done with very little active prep, few ingredients and all for less than 300 calories a serving. 

You'll need:
  • 2-3 ears of corn
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 pound of shrimp
  • 2 tbs chipotle en adobo
  • fresh cilantro, about 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
Serves two at around 280 calories a serving. 

First, set the oven to 400 for your corn. Shuck em, slather some softened butter on each ear (about 1/2 tbs per ear) and add salt to taste. Wrap each ear of corn in tin foil. Place on baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

While you're doing that, prep your shrimp (no shells, these need to be uncooked) and make a quick marinade in a small bowl by combing the chipotle en adobo, the juice of 1.5 limes (you'll need the other half for the corn salad), 1/8 cup of cilantro and 1/2 tbs olive oil. Add salt to taste. Toss the marinade into a small ziplock bag with the prepped shrimp. Marinate for 20-30 minutes, or while the corn cooks.

Take a lovely break while your shrimp marinates and your corn roasts. Told ya this was easy! If you've opened a fresh can of chipotle en adobo (yes, you get these canned, they're usually in the Latin foods aisle of your grocery store) and you aren't sure how you'll use all the rest of it, portion the rest out in approximate tablespoons on a sheet of wax paper and place it in the freezer. After it's frozen overnight, put them in a labeled ziplock baggie, keep them in your freezer, and they thaw in about 15-20 seconds in the microwave when you need more in the future.

So now your oven timer is beeping and it's time to take the corn out. Let the corn cool a bit while you get the shrimp going in a pan over medium heat. You'll want to drain most of the excess marinade off at this point. Cook until the shrimp are pink, turning over half way through. This should take about 4-7 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp and the heat of your pan.

If you're lucky like me and you have an amazing kitchen assistant aka husband, have them cut the corn off the cobs and into a large bowl while the shrimp cooks. Stir in the cheese, Greek yogurt, juice of the remaining 1/2 lime, and the remaining cilantro. Add salt to taste. If you're like me and you like a little kick, add in a bit of Cholula hot sauce. A note on the cotija cheese - while the real thing is well worth it, in a pinch queso fresco with extra salt will do. Likewise, sour cream is traditionally used in place of Greek yogurt, but when I only need 1/4 cup I'll always go with what I more commonly have on hand in the fridge.

Plate the shrimp with the corn and you're done. You could even throw in some tortilla chips here if you need carbs at dinner time. And to be honest, I loved these shrimp so much I really wish we made the full pound... and I might next time. The whole meal would still clock in at under 400 calories. And if you added a paloma with 1/3 cup grapefruit juice, 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, 1/3 cup diet tonic and 1.5 ounces of tequila, well, that would just be icing on your summer corn salad cake. Salad cake? That can be a thing? That's not a thing. Sorry. Just go enjoy your shrimp.