Friday, July 1, 2011
Pesto Cheesecake, Pea Mint & Parmesan Crostini, Blueberry Mozzarella Crostini...and a GIVEAWAY!
Not everyone is as into spreading the healthy love as I am.
I get that. And I hold all judgment.
(Except when my mother tries to put chicken on my plate at a barbecue, all the while trying to tell me it's not meat.
I mean. It's probably not because she bought it in one mass-produced package at a wholesale club and so it's probably more antibiotic and pesticide than it is actual chicken. But that's another argument for another family gathering.)
But when I have a dinner party. You will eat a vegetable in every component of every course. And you will like it.
(Even dessert. Carrot cake cookies. Nuff said.)
I'm a drill sergeant when it comes to such things.
You should say a prayer for my future children.
Thankfully, and quite contrary to popular belief, it is actually quite easy to make vegetables taste good. So good, in fact, that no one realizes they haven't eaten a single speckle of animal protein until hours after the meal has been completed.
And your self-proclaimed carnivorous physical therapist, who made the overarching statement during one of your physical therapy sessions a few weeks ago that vegetables "don't taste good", decides to take a glaringly large container of leftovers home with him to eat for lunch the next day. (Don't hold it against him. He really does know his way around all of the important running muscles of your leg. And even the unimportant ones.)
The key is to use big bold flavors. Fresh herbs. A hint of cheese. And present them in a way that people know and love and won't question (unless you're my brother...who questions everything I make. Especially dessert, after an unfortunate incident in which I made a chocolate zucchini cake that he ate and liked and hates himself for liking).
Crostini, cheesecake, lasagna. All dinner party winners.
Another person who, like me, is trying to spread the veggie and healthy-but-tastes-good love is Peggy Kotsopoulos who, in her new book "Must Have Been Something I Ate" describes how what we eat affects every aspect of our lives - from our mood to our energy level to our sex drive. Each chapter focuses on a specific one of these relationships - food-mood, food-weight, food-beauty, and food-health - and describes what foods and natural supplements you can eat to try to ameliorate or avoid having problems in these areas. Then, at the end, she provides recipes that use some of these superfoods.
While I thought the book was definitely an interesting read, I'm not sure that some of the more esoteric supplements are really necessary for good health. So while I'll be willing to eat more garlic or asparagus to pump up my sex drive, I'm probably (definitely) not going to seek out sacha inichi seeds or chlorella. It also bothered me that some of these supplements are only available in pill form, with Kotsopoulos citing that she takes some of these pills multiple times a day! In my opinion, eating a well-balanced healthy meal is going to lead you to good health more readily than popping a pill ever will, and I wished that Kotsopoulos had focused on this aspect of nutrition more.
Regardless, the recipes she provides do sound tasty and I will definitely be trying some in my kitchen. I made her guilt-free blueberry jam which uses chia seeds rather than tons of sugar and pectin as a gelling agent. I'd heard of chia seeds before, as they are quite popular among health food bloggers. Chia seeds are super rich in omega-3's and can be used in porridges, oatmeals, or puddings or can be ground up and put in baked goods in a similar way that flax seed is. They can be found at Whole Foods and other natural food stores. I liked that the jam really allowed the blueberry flavor to shine through and that the predominant flavor wasn't just SUGAR.
Now for the GIVEAWAY: the Vega team was super gracious in sending me not only a copy of the book for myself, but one for you as well! To enter, please leave a comment telling me what your favorite healthy dish to bring to a dinner party or barbecue is! The winner will be announced on Wednesday July 6th.
Sorry for the overload of recipes today, but they are all so good that I wanted you to have them at your fingertips and on your taste buds before the mass barbecues everyone is sure to be having this weekend.
Both crostini recipes are the perfect mix of sweet, salty, cheesy and tangy. Your guests will just keep reaching for piece after piece.
And the pesto cheesecake? Well, that was absolutely the hit of my dinner party a few weeks ago. It's a savory cheesecake, which sounds like a strange concept, but is utterly addictive, especially with the fresh flavor of pesto added into the mix!
Spreading the healthy love never tasted so good. Or so satisfying.
**Also, please check out my guest post over at Simply Life, one of my favorite blogs! It features a dessert that would be PERFECT for the 4th of July weekend!
Peas, Mint and Parmesan Crostini
Makes 12, adapted from Bon Appetit June 2011
12 slices baguette bread
1 cup fresh/frozen peas
2 tbsp olive oil
1. Blanch peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh and 1 minute for frozen.
2. Drain peas. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and olive oil and mash with the back of a fork.
3. Spread about 1 tbsp mixture onto each slice of bread. Garnish with shaved parmesan, mint and balsamic vinegar.
Makes 1 10-inch cheesecake, adapted from We Are Not Martha
1 1/2 cups crushed sesame crackers
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup ricotta
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used a sun-dried tomato blend from trader joe's)
8 oz low fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup pesto
1/3 cup low fat sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix the cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Press into the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up the side of a springform pan.
2. Beat the ricotta, feta, and cream cheese in a bowl until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Stir in the pesto and sour cream.
3. Pour the mixture over the crust. Place the pan on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top starts to brown and the center is almost set.
4. Let cool on a wire rack. Loosen the sides and let cool for another hour. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to cool or allow to cool at room temperature overnight (what I did). Serve with veggies and/or crackers.
Blueberry Mozzarella Crostini
Makes 12, adapted from Must Have Been Something I Ate
For the jam:
1 1/2 cups blueberries, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
1 heaping tbsp chia seeds
1. Puree 3/4 cup of the blueberries in a food processor or blender. Mix in the vanilla and coconut sugar, if using. Put into a bowl. Stir in the remaining blueberries as well as the chia seeds (feel free to ground the seeds if you wish to hide them better). Allow to sit in the fridge overnight so that it can gel up.
For the crostini:
1 whole wheat baguette
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
1. Slice the baguette. Top each slice with some mozzarella and blueberry jam. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.