Creamy Potato Salad, Hold the Mayo

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There’s a first time for everything: eating rhubarb, making steamed buns, eating cool, creamy potato salad.

Yeah, you read that right. I only recently had my first bite of creamy potato salad. My aversion to mayonnaise (sorry, I know some of you think it’s good, but I find it repulsive!) had always prevented me from enjoying this delicious salad. Until now.

I was flipping through a recent issue of Food+Wine when I saw it. It looked like a normal potato salad. But it used hummus. And yogurt. And, most notably, no mayo. It immediately got added to me “to try” list.

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So one night we decided to grill up some burgers, and I knew that it was the perfect time to try this salad (and try out my new eco-friednly plates!). I mixed it up. Easy enough. But I have to confess, it looked so much like the potato salads that I’ve been avoiding all these years that I was a little hesitant to take a bite. Which was ridiculous, since I made the stuff and I knew that there was absolutely no mayonnaise in it.

So I took a small nibble. And it. was. awesome. I mean, we were lucky that there was any left by the time the burgers were done – I couldn’t keep out of it! For those of you who hate mayo, this is a great substitute. Those of you that do eat mayo will enjoy it too – Shawn said that it actually tastes very similar. It’s cool, creamy, slightly tangy. The hummus flavor isn’t nearly as pronounced as you might imagine it would be, And it has a whole lot less fat (about 5 grams of fat in mine, compared to over 20 grams in traditional versions!)

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Taste of the Nation

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Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Taste of the Nation event in Hartford, thanks to Foodbuzz and Share our Strength. As I wrote before, I think Share our Strength is a great organization and the series Taste of the Nation events is one of their biggest and most exciting fundraisers. I felt a little guilty going for free, but the event was fabulous. There was tons of food and wine from some of the area’s best restaurants as well as lots of great auction items. 100% of the proceeds went to benefit Share our Strength’s local efforts.

But let’s talk about the food. WOW. There were some really delicious, really creative dishes to sample! From guacamole with lobster and fruit (so much better than you’d expect!) to pulled pork sandwiches with diced apple to the amazing asparagus and mushroom custard in that top photo. I even got to try bao! (I have to say though, Shawn and I both liked my Pillsbury version better – this one was kind of dense and dry.) And don’t forget the desserts! My favorite was the caramel custard topped with caramel foam and sea salt from ON20, but there was also a delicious lemon custard cake with blackberry sauce that I’ll be trying to recreate at home soon. And plenty of chocolates. And wine. And beer. Honestly, for the price of the $75 admission ticket (which will supply 18 bags of groceries to those who need them) you might feel like you’re ripping them off a little bit. If you purchase a VIP ticket (which I would do in a heartbeat next time) you’ll also have access to a roped off area that looks like it had some seriously good food and cocktails behind it. VIPs also left with gift bags (I left with a t-shirt from one of the participating restaurants and 2 beer glasses). If one of these events is coming to your area, I highly recommend going. It’s a great time for a great cause.

I took a ton of pictures, so I decided to make a slideshow instead of posting them all. Enjoy! (Also, see that plate above? I was so happy to see a lot of the restaurants using these. They’re eco friendly and very cool. I actually got some last week and have a review coming up soon!)




Easy Steamed Buns, Two Ways (and Some Cookies!)

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Do you ever see something or hear of something and immediately know that you’ll love it? That’s how I felt about the delicious looking Chinese steamed buns, or bao, that keep turning up everywhere I look lately. Everywhere, that is, except on menus here in Albany. It seemed as though if I wanted to taste these for myself, I would ether have to travel to NYC or make them myself. Making them seemed like it would be complicated, so I tucked the idea away in my every-expanding file of recipes to try on the weekend. But then I read this post from Carolyn Jung, who had a little truck up her sleeve to make steamed buns on a weeknight a very real possibility.

The trick? Don’t bother making your own dough. Instead, turn to a tube of refrigerated biscuits. Easy Peasy. When classic Pillsbury biscuits are steamed instead of baked, the texture undergoes a complete transformation. Instead of turning out buttery and flakey, they become pillowy-soft and slightly chewy. I don’t know how authentic the flavor or texture is, but it’s exactly how I imagined it would be. And every bit as delicious.

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I was having trouble deciding what I wanted to fill my bins with, so I ended up doing two version: one fatty, porky version based on Momofuku’s popular buns, and another light version stuffed with tofu that I baked with my favorite generic “Asian” marinade. Bother versions were amazing, but I actually liked the tofu version the most! It was light and fresh in flavor and the combination of textures — the doughy bun, crispy-creamy tofu and crunchy vegetables — was so much more interesting than that of the chewy pork belly.

I’ve posted tofu very similar to this one before, but I’ve recently started to fry the whole block very quickly before baking it. This gives the outside of the tofu a crispy coating that tastes really good and also makes the texture of the tofu a lot more appealing.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart with Brown Sugar Shortcrust

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The other day I mentioned on twitter that I have never had rhubarb. The responses were fast and plentiful, and most fell into a rage from disbelief to pity. I never realized it was so popular – I don’t even think I knew it existed until a few years ago! I decided that since everyone seemed to love it so much, I should take the plunge and give it a try. I went with the traditional combination of rhubarb with strawberries, but I didn’t want to commit to a whole pie. So I made a tart. A tart with a brown sugar shortbread crust.

Ok, fine. Maybe I just didn’t feel like dealing with pie crust. But the shortbread crust was perfect. Strawberries and shortbread. Strawberries and brown sugar. How could you go wrong? Especially when you start out with strawberries that look like these:

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I mean, strawberries have been awesome this year as it is, but take a look at those beauties! They were every bit as juicy and sweet as they look. Which is good, since I paired them with rhubarb. Which, in case you’re like me and have never had it before, is extremely tart. Especially when it’s raw. I don’t recommend doing what I did and taking a nibble to test it out.

Despite the tartness of that nibble, I could tell that this was going to be a thing of beauty so I forged ahead. Let the berries and rhubarb macerate in sugar to release the juices. Scooped it into the partially bakes cookie crust. Baked it until the filling became luscious and jammy, almost like a grown up version of a linzer tarte. Where has this been all my life?

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New Product Alert: Salad To Go

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Earlier this year, the city I live in implemented one of those “chain restaurants must post calories counts on their menus” laws that seem to be popping up across the country like wildflowers. I’m not going to get into a debate on the merits. I like the idea of it, but it honestly doesn’t effect me that much since I rarely eat at chains.

But once in a while, I do. Like the other night, when I went to Chili’s for dinner. I knew that everything on the menu would be awful — processed, fried, and loaded with calories. But can we just talk about their salads for a second? I mean, I certainly wasn’t expecting them to be the healthy salads that I make at home, but over 1,000 calories for something that didn’t even seem that appetizing? That’s insane. A “salad” shouldn’t have anywhere near the amount of calories as a half rack of ribs. (Yes, theirs did.)

Which got me to thinking: I usually bring leftovers with me to work to eat for lunch. But that doesn’t always happen — there either aren’t any, or they won’t reheat well, or I just don’t feel like eating them. So I buy something. Usually a salad, since they’re fresh and (relatively) healthy (sometimes). They’re not usually very good though, and I really have no way of knowing how “healthy” they are.

So I was really excited when the people’s from Olivia’s Organics contacted me to let me know about a new product that will be hitting supermarket shelves on Monday. Individual, grab-and-go salads. Organic. For $2.99, which is way cheaper than anything you’d get at a lunch place. AND THEY COME WITH A FORK! Which makes sense since they’re meant as a to-go type of a meal, but I still think it’s pretty brilliant.
Anyway, there are going to be three kinds: spring mix salad with balsamic dressing; chopped romaine salad with garlic croutons and Caesar dressing; or baby spinach salad with ranch dressing. I’m still waiting on them to get back to me with nutrition information, but I’m pretty sure they’ll have a lot less calories than anything you’d find in a restaurant. A hand full of fresh berries thrown on top or a little bit of chicken from the deli could easily transform these salads into a satisfying and healthy lunch. The next time I’m looking for an effortless lunch in a hurry, I’ll definitely seek out one of these instead of getting one from a take out place.
(I was not compensated for this post.  They sent me information about the new salad line, and I’m choosing to share it with you because I am excited about it and thought that you might be too. I did receive some coupons for samples of Olivia’s lettuce a while back, but I also buy their products all the time.)